Friday August 31, 2018 – By Lizzie Dearden (RBB) – A man and woman have denied they were responsible for the female genital mutilation of a three-year-old girl.
Wearing a pink patterned headscarf and grey top, the 36-year-old female Ugandan national pleaded not guilty to charges of female genital mutilation (FGM) at London’s Old Bailey.
The 43-year-old man, originally from Ghana made the same plea via video link from prison at HMP Thameside.
Judge Ann Molyneux QC remanded them in custody ahead of another hearing on 9 October, ahead of a three-week trial set for 14 January.
It is the third attempted FGM prosecution in Britain. Two previous cases have ended with the suspects being acquitted.
In March, a solicitor was cleared of arranging FGM for his daughter when she was nine years old at their London home.
The 50-year-old man, originally from West Africa, was also acquitted of five other charges at the Old Bailey, including child cruelty and wounding with intent.
At least 16,265 women and girls living in the UK have told doctors they have FGM but officials believe the figure is the tip of the iceberg as the practice remaining widely unreported.
NHS figures show that almost 4,500 women and girls came forward for the first time in the year to March, although the procedure may have been carried out years before and most cases happen abroad.
According to the World Health Organisation, the percentage of women who have undergone the procedure in some countries is as high as 96 per cent, with the highest rates including Somalia, Guinea, Egypt and Sudan.
FGM, which refers to any procedure that intentionally alters female genital organs for non-medical reasons, has been illegal in the UK since 1985 but the law was strengthened in 2003 to prevent girls travelling to undergo FGM abroad.
School holidays are a crucial time to intercept potential offenders, sparking the start of Operation Limelight in 2014 to question families flying into and out of Britain.
Friday’s hearing came a day after British and American law enforcement signed a proclamation to support each other’s investigations into the practice. Next week will see them conduct joint operations across US and UK airports, and on the Eurostar.