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In what is believed to be the toughest sentence in Europe to date for parents who allowed genital mutilation on their daughters, Binta Sankano and her husband Sekou Tutay, were sentenced to six years for each crime against their young daughters.
A panel of judges at the Provincial Court in Barcelona ruled that the parents, both of Gambian nationality and resident in Spain for 20 years, were criminally responsible for the clitoridectomy performed on both their daughters.
“The couple deliberately mutilated their young daughters either directly or through a person of unknown identity,” said the written judgement. “Female circumcision is not a culture. It is mutilation and discrimination against women.”
The case came to light when doctors examined the girls in January 2011 and discovered that both had undergone a procedure of female genital mutilation during a period of six months since their last examination. They were aged six and 11 at the time.
It is one of the first such cases to be successfully prosecuted in Spain because despite not knowing exactly when or who carried out the procedures it was proven that they must have occurred on Spanish soil and not on a visit to Gambia and that the parents were aware it was illegal.
The parents accepted in court that the family had not travelled from their home in Villanova I la Gertru, a small town 25 miles south of Barcelona, to Gambia since 2009.
Social services had visited the parents in 2008 and discussed the issue of female circumcision.
“On that occasion the woman made a promise as a mother not to undertake such a practice on her daughters,” the court ruling stated.
Both parents denied knowledge of their daughters having undergone any procedure and Sankano insisted that she was not aware that such a practice was illegal in Spain.
The written judgement observed the “inevitable clash of cultures” that occurs with migration but said: “Respect for cultural traditions must be limited against the respect for human rights as universally recognised.”
There are no reliable figures for how many female circumcisions take place in Spain each year.