Sydney’s genital mutilation case may not be isolated

The charging of four people over the circumcision of two young girls in Sydney has led to fears that other cases of female genital mutilation have gone undetected in NSW.

 
 

Shabbir Vaziri mutilation case
THE charging of four people over the circumcision of two young girls in Sydney has led to fears that other cases of female genital mutilation have gone undetected in NSW.

A sheik, a retired nurse and a man and woman have been charged over the genital mutilation of the girls, who were aged six and seven when the procedure was allegedly carried out in a home in metropolitan Sydney 18 months ago.

It is understood to be the first time anyone has been charged over the offence in NSW, with police alleging the procedure was carried out for cultural reasons.

Shabbir Vaziri, 56, a sheik from Auburn, appeared before Burwood Local Court on Thursday where he was granted bail.

He is charged with two counts of being an accessory after the fact to female genital mutilation and with hindering the police investigation.

Earlier on Thursday, a 68-year-old woman – a retired nurse – was charged with performing the procedure on the two girls.

A 42-year-old man and a 35-year-old woman were arrested last Friday and charged with two counts of female genital mutilation. Police have refused to confirm media reports the pair are the girls’ parents.

Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec told reporters the girls were members of a small cultural community in Sydney and were still living in the family home.

“The children are still with their parents. I can stress that, despite this procedure, they are good parents,” Det Supt Kerlatec said.

“Contradictory as it may sound, it’s a procedure that they believe in their own culture is appropriate.”

There was no pattern of abuse in the family home, he added.

Police and Health NSW have engaged strongly with the community in question, and Det Supt Kerlatec said many people had been “forthcoming with their rejection” of the practice of circumcising girls.

“Sadly, there are some members of the community who think it is still an accepted process,” he said.

Asked if he thought there may be more victims, Det Supt Kerlatec said: “We’re not aware of any other incidents at this stage, but I can’t discount that fact.”

NSW Family and Community Services and Minister Pru Goward said she thought it was “unlikely” that the incident was an isolated one.

“That’s why the rules were changed in 1994, because I believe that the state was aware that this was a distinct possibility,” Ms Goward told reporters at NSW parliament.

Ms Goward said female genital mutilation was an “abhorrent practice” and “a form of child abuse”.

“It is illegal, and whilst there might be cultural practices acceptable to some communities in NSW, it remains the case that it is illegal and that the full force of the law will be brought to bear,” she said.

The court heard Vaziri held an Indian passport and was about to fly to India when he was arrested, making him a possible flight risk.

Granting bail to Vaziri, Magistrate Christopher Longley noted that if convicted he would probably be jailed.

“To the overwhelming majority of citizens, this is a most serious set of circumstances,” he said.

Vaziri’s matter was adjourned to September 26 in Parramatta Local Court, when the 42-year-old man and 35-year-old woman will also appear.

The retired nurse will face Campbelltown Local Court on 3 October. – AAP