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First sentence under new law over genital mutilation

Friday July 13, 2018

A Somali woman from canton Neuchâtel has been sentenced to eight months’ prison over the genital mutilation of her two daughters, in the first Swiss case of its kind after a law change.

The girls were six and a half and seven when the procedure was carried out between 2013-2015 in Somalia and Ethiopia.

The mother, who now lives in Neuchâtel in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, did not deny the charges. She was reported to the authorities by her estranged husband, who is also from Somalia.

The judgement was based on a relatively new article in Swiss law which aims to prevent Swiss-based families from having their daughters circumcised, whether in Switzerland or abroad.

“I do not take it upon myself to be able to change things. But perhaps this judgement will contribute to eliminating the suffering of millions of girls,” said Nathalie Kocherhans, the judge at the regional court in Boudry, on Thursday.

The fact that the woman did not live in Switzerland at the time of the genital mutilation was not a reason for acquittal, the judge added.

The court did however recognise that the Somali woman had been living in difficult circumstances. The woman, who is illiterate, has been under immense social pressure in her home country for the girls to undergo the procedure.

This is why the sentence is mainly of a symbolic nature, the judge explained. But given the gravity of the offence, a short prison sentence was still necessary, she said.


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