An Islamic holy man and his wife have been jailed for the genital mutilation of their four daughters.
The case has shocked France and was branded by a female government minister as a ‘grave crime’ and an ‘intolerable affront to women’s dignity.’
All four of the victims, now aged between 11 and 20, were in court to hear the sentence and wept and cried out as their parents were led away from the dock.
The unnamed father was sentenced to two years and his wife got 18 months for allowing a ‘doctor’ to remove parts of their vaginas.
They were charged with ‘complicity in voluntary violence having led to mutilation by an older person of a minor under the age of 15 years’ , a crime punishable by a maximum of 20 years jail.
The father was said to be a ‘ marabout’ – an Arabic word for an Islamic ascetic holy man alleged to be endowed with magical powers.
The couple originally came from the west African state of Guinea where according to a 2007 study, 96 per cent of young girls have their genitals mutilated in the name of religion.
Black African marabouts, or sorcerers as they are termed by other branches of Islam who condemn their practices, use talismans to exert their powers .
They are said to be able to cure illnesses and restore whole communities to wellbeing simply by waving feathers and intoning magical words.
At the trial in Nevers, central France, the two youngest victims had declared themselves plaintiffs under French law but the elder girls withdrew their complaint and sided with their parents.
Nathalie Bouvier-Longeville, a lawyer representing the two youngest sisters told the court: ‘ By what right were the parents able to appropriate parts of their daughters’ bodies?
‘They are loving parents and not monsters. It seems inconceivable that loving parents could have done this’.
The two eldest girls defended their parents action, saying that they did not understand why they were appearing in court.
Sobbing in the witness box , the mother told the court that she now regretted what had happened .
‘Now I would be less passive, ‘ she said. ‘Circumcision is not good.’
The former holy man, said to have been severely handicapped by a stroke, told the judge ,’ What is the most important thing for me is the wellbeing of my family. I am sorry for what happened.’
Moroccan- born Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, 35, Minister of Women’s Rights in the new government of François Hollande, has now pledged a crackdown on the illegal practice.
She vowed to track down what she called ‘ executioners’ who have performed covert surgery on an estimated 50,000 young girls in France.
‘Circumcision is a mutilating and dangerous practice with serious effects on health, fertility and physical and psychological wellbeing of the very young girls who are its victims’, the Minister wrote on her website
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