Cleric charged over alleged genital mutilation of girls
An Australian cleric was ordered to stand trial Thursday over the alleged genital mutilation of two girls aged 6 and 7.
The cultural practice, outlawed in Australia in 1994, is common in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia with over 100 million women thought to have gone through a procedure that ranges from a small cut to the complete removal of the clitoris.
Shabbir Vaziri, 56, is one of four Sydney residents charged in a joint 18-month investigation by the New South Wales Police Force's Sex Crimes Squad and the state health department.
Vaziri, believed to be the leader of a small Islamic sect, was granted bail and ordered to appear in court again next month to answer charges of being an accessory after the fact of female genital mutilation and with hindering a police investigation.
A 68-year-old woman has been charged with operating on the girls and will appear in court next month.
A 42-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman were arrested last week and charged with two counts each of female genital mutilation. They too were granted bail and ordered to return to court next month.
Two years ago the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists issued an edict banning medical practitioners from performing female genital mutilation "in any form."
New South Wales Minister for Community Services Pru Goward welcomed the prosecutions, saying genital mutilation was a form of child abuse.
"It's illegal, and whilst there might be cultural practices acceptable to some communities ... it remains the case that it's illegal and that the full force of the law will be brought to bear."
She said she believed these were the first prosecutions in Australia and that a conviction could bring a 7-year jail sentence.