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Australian judge sentences mother to 15 months for mutilating daughters

by Emma Batha | @emmabatha | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 18 March 2016 12:45 GMT

Dawoodi Bohra Muslims wait to take blessings from their new spiritual leader Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin outside a mosque in Mumbai February 19, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

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Since the trial, Dawoodi Bohra leaders in Australia, Sweden, Britain, U.S., and other countries have issued edicts against FGM

By Emma Batha

LONDON, March 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A mother and midwife who subjected two young girls to female genital mutilation in Australia were sentenced to 15 months each on Friday following a landmark FGM trial.

The mother of four, who cannot be named for legal reasons, asked nurse Kubra Magennis to carry out the secret ritual on her two older daughters.

Both are members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, a worldwide subsect of Shi'ite Islam. Shabbir Vaziri, a Dawoodi Bohra religious leader, was also sentenced to 15 months for trying to cover up the offences.

The girls were cut when they were about seven years old and afterwards sworn to secrecy, according to the judgment by the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

The older girl was cut at a relative's home in Wollongong and the younger at the family home in Sydney. Their grandmother was also present at the ceremonies carried out between 2009 and 2012.

The older girl said she had been told to lie on a bed naked from the waist down and imagine she was a "princess in a garden". She described the cutting instrument as a "silver tool-ish thing" which "looked a bit like a scissor".

The procedure, which the Dawoodi Bohras call khatna, involves cutting or nicking the clitoris. Although it is not mentioned in the Koran, the Bohras consider it a religious obligation.

The Dawoodi Bohra are based in India where campaigners recently launched a petition calling on the government to pass a law against FGM.

The trial has been closely watched by Dawoodi Bohra communities around the world many of whom have since issued edicts against the practice.


The trial judge said Magennis, 72, had shown no remorse and her offence was aggravated by the fact she had abused her professional vocation.

The court heard the mother, a 39-year-old trained pharmacist, had been subjected to khatna herself as a child in Kenya.

The judge said the mother - "a well-educated and intelligent woman" - had breached her duty to protect her daughters. But he noted that she had apologised to them in a letter.

"Khatna has been a practice in our culture for 14 centuries," she wrote. "The courts have found ... you were injured and I was responsible.

"I now unreservedly apologise to you. I thought I was doing what was required culturally but I accept that (it) is wrong ... I am very sorry to have put you through this. My love always."

FGM, which can cause serious physical and psychological problems, is more commonly linked to African countries which have led international efforts to end the practice.

Campaigners say Dawoodi Bohras are the only Muslim community in South Asia to practise FGM, estimating that up to three quarters of Bohra girls are cut.

The judge said that since the trial, leaders of Dawoodi Bohra communities in Australia, Sweden, Britain, the United States, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway and Kenya had issued edicts against FGM.

He said the girls' mother, nurse and sheikh should all be assessed for their suitability for home detention.

(Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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