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High Court passes landmark extra-territorial genital mutilation sentence

Senegalese woman given two years despite ritual ablation taking place prior to arrival in Spain

The High Court has for the first time handed down a custodial sentence against a Senegalese woman for the genital mutilation of her child outside of Spanish territory before the family arrived in the country. The court condemned Fatoumata D., 41, to two years in prison and ordered her to pay 10,000 euros in compensation for the injuries her youngest daughter sustained in a ritual initiation ceremony in the West African country.

The landmark case differs from others in that previous sentences have only been handed down in cases where parents already residing in Spain had traveled to Africa to have their daughter undergo the ritual ablation, which is why it was dealt with by the High Court.

Fatoumata and her four children – three boys and a girl, a minor – arrived in Premià de Mar, Barcelona in 2010 to join her husband, Bouly T., who had been a Spanish resident since 1999 and had obtained visas under family regrouping legislation. In 2006 during a medical examination carried out as part of the residency application, a pediatrician observed the extirpation of the clitoris in the child, then aged six. The injury was not recent and would require surgery to repair.

During the trial, Fatoumata, who speaks no Spanish, said that she only learned of her daughter’s injury at the clinic and that she was “deeply sad” when informed. She said the mutilation could have taken place when her daughter, who was one at the time, was left in the care of her grandmother. She added that she was against the practice, having suffered it herself, and that she would not have knowingly allowed it to happen.

However, the nurse present at the examination testified that when told of their daughter’s injuries, the parents acted with “indifference” and even “boastfulness.” The child’s father said the circumcision was “normal” and “part of our culture and tradition.”

In the face of such testimony the court ruled there was “no room for doubt of the accused’s responsibility” and that she could easily have carried out the procedure herself or exposed her child to the dangers of genital mutilation through neglect.

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