Nine jailed for 'female genital mutilation'
Nine women have been sentenced to jail terms for the female circumcision of around 30 young girls, in what the UN said was the first criminal prosecution of its kind in Ivory Coast.
The women, aged between 46 and 91, were found guilty of "female genital mutilation" or complicity on Wednesday and each sentenced to a year in jail and a 75- euro ($90-dollar) fine.
Although UN officials said they did not expect them to serve their sentences due to their age, they welcomed the convictions as an important first step.
"This sentence is the first of its kind in Ivory Coast" and would help to prevent future cases of female circumcision, Patrick Yedress of the United Nations Operation in Ivory Coast (UNOCI), told AFP at court.
The circumcisions were carried out during a ritual ceremony in the northern town of Katiola in February.
In the past, there were arrests of women who had conducted circumcisions, but the cases were settled without going to court following the intervention of relatives and local communities, said Suzanne Maiga of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
A national inquiry in 2006 found that female circumcision affected 36 percent of the female population. A UN study put the figure at 42 percent.
The practice is particularly prevalent among northern Muslims and animists in the west of the country where up to 80 percent of females are circumcised despite a 1998 ban and numerous initiatives aimed at eradicating it.
Last year a three-year-old girl from near Katiola died after undergoing the procedure.