Monday, October 30, 2006

Female Genital Mutilation in Georgia: Who is the Perp?

Several days ago a reader sent in the Fox News version of the Georgia news report making the rounds in the MSM and the blogosphere. Several things about the initial story didn’t seem to jibe, so I decided not to post on it. I also noticed that the trial had become a cause célèbre among feminists — finally — and they moved their convention from Kenya to Georgia, ostensibly to monitor the trial, but more likely to use the media exposure to promote Equality Now.

Here are the bare bones:

Fortunate AdemThere is a mother, Fortunate Adem. She was born in South Africa and moved here when she was six. Her age isn’t given. There is a father, Khalid Adem, who was born in Ethiopia and came to the U.S. when he was sixteen. He is now thirty.

The couple met at junior college in Georgia. They were married in 1999, and their daughter was born in September of that year. The family settled in Duluth, Georgia. It is alleged that in September or October of 2001 the father performed a clitoridectomy on his two-year-old. They divorced acrimoniously in 2003 after the mother accused the father of mutilating their child.
- - - - - - - - - -
Khalid Adem2003 is also the year the father was arrested, and he was indicted the next year on charges of aggravated battery and child cruelty. He was released on bond following the indictment and continued to work in the same store where he had been employed prior to his arrest.

The case went to trial, and last week the prosecution rested. Among the witnesses called was the child, now seven years old. She testified that her father “cut my private part.” The media reported several versions of this quote.

I am puzzled by some of the “facts” in this case. Readers’ comments about the following points would be welcome. Please, however, stick to the points of contention and avoid irrelevant remarks about the family members.

  • Question: I have no doubt this a Class One female genital mutilation. But how can a seven-year-old provide reliable information on an incident — no matter how traumatic — that happened five years previously, when she was barely two years old? Notice that I said “reliable”. In other words, to use the court’s jargon, would a reasonable man find this testimony credible?

  • Question: The father worked, and perhaps the mother did, too. The details of their daily married routine aren’t available, but it is obvious that he was not the primary caretaker. Yet the mother claims not to have known until a year and a half later that her daughter’s clitoris had been cut off with a pair of scissors. Any mother will find this part of the testimony hard to fathom. With toddlers, on a daily basis, you get to see far more of their behinds than you really want to. How can a child say NOTHING, how can a mother notice NOTHING for a year and half? And now, five years later in court, the child can smoothly accuse Daddy of cutting her with the scissors, and the mother can claim:

    Her whole life has been changed. She is going to be traumatized psychologically. Parts of her body have been taken away from her without her consent. They need to look at this child the same way they would if she had been raped.

    There is a glaring disconnect between the mother who lived with her child and noticed NOTHING, and the mother who now asserts the traumatization of her daughter.

  • Question: The mother and the mother-in-law both refused to undergo a polygraph test about their roles in this incident. Yes, it’s true that neither polygraph results nor such a refusal would be admissible as evidence in the case. But, in its context, their reluctance stands stands out. What were the reasons for their refusal?

  • Question: A tape of a phone conversation between the mother and the father was excluded by the court as evidence in the case. On that tape the mother, whose anger is alleged to have been extreme never mentions the mutilation of the daughter. If you were separated from the man who did such a thing to your child, would you not be compelled to mention it during an angry tirade? Even once?

  • A point has been repeated that Ethiopia practices female genital mutilation, but that South Africa, the mother’s birthplace, does not. This is not entirely true. And in Ethiopia, as far as I have been able to ascertain, this ritual is performed by women, never men. It is not their role, and they are not around when it happens. In fact, both parents are usually absent during the procedure, because of the pain it causes the child. This is simply another way in which this story goes astray.

  • A question on due process: This man was indicted in 2004. Why has this case been hanging fire for two and a half years? The mother immediately began to work with Georgia legislators to outlaw this practice. But it was already a felony to cut off someone’s body part, or to physically damage a child. Aside from the grandstanding in the legislature, I’m not sure what the point of all this legal exertion was. It certainly brought a few years’ publicity to the mother, so I suppose it had that advantage. However, to a reasonable person, this law would appear to fall in the same category as “hate” crimes: it takes an already established vicious felony and ratchets it up a notch, for political reasons. This is perverted.

  • One final point: I’ve looked at some of the blogosphere’s reaction to this trial, and it seems to be generally assumed that this is a case of Shar’ia law at work. However, there is no indication that this man is a Muslim; Ethiopia has a mixture of religions, and is about one-third Muslim. Even more important, female genital mutilation does not appear across all of Islam. It is a tribal practice, generally confined to parts of Africa. In Egypt, the Islamic Court has ruled variously as to whether or not it is demanded, permitted, or banned by the Koran. So while Muslim women are all second-class citizens by law, they are not all routinely subjected to this ritual.

    According to tradition, at one point Mohammed happened upon a woman who was about to perform the operation on a little girl. At most, he warned her not to cut too deeply, or she would interfere with the husband’s pleasure. A liberal interpretation could see this as a resigned admonition in the face of an irresistible age-old tradition. However, his response is not glossed as an imperative.

We don’t enhance a reputation for accuracy in the blogosphere if we merely assume this man must be a Muslim, and that he is guilty, and that female genital mutilation is some form of Islamic law. It could turn out that none of the above is true. It could turn out that this is a hideous ritual practiced by many tribes in that area of the world, be they Muslim, Christian, or animist. It could turn out that it is performed on little girls by women, but not by men.

Let us not bruise ourselves jumping to conclusions. There are far too many gaps and contradictions in this story for any clear or easy assumptions.

I pity the jury.

Resources used in the writing of this post:
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/2/2004
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/21/2006
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/22/2006
WCSH6, 10/24/2006
Gwinnett Daily Post, 10/24/2006, 10/25/2006, 10/25/2006, 10/25/2006
Gwinnett Daily Post, 10/26/2006
WIS TV10, 10/26/2006
Fox News, 10/27/2006
Religious Tolerance


Frank said...

Good article. It applies specifically and generally.

Wally Ballou said...

Dymphna - kudos to you for your discretion and reluctance to jump to conclusions - a rare quality in the blogosphere (or the MSM, il va sans dire. It's rare to see critical analysis of a story that is NOT motivated by a desire to make it fit an established storyline.

allen said...

This extensive study from the early 90s, relying on data from the 80s may be useful. As to female circumcision among Muslims:

“Sudan (98%), Somalia (98%) and Egypt (75%) are among the largest Arabic countries practicing it. In Egypt, 97.5% of uneducated families impose circumcision upon their daughters compared to 66.2% of educated families[21]. Other Arabic countries practice it too: Yemen, the United Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, some areas of Saudi Arabia, Mauritania. It appears to be done also in some Muslim countries of Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and India…”


Ash v Allen

What is "Occupation" said...

let us not forget that egypt is about 1/3 of the entire arab world and is viewed as the leader of the arab peoples..

some leadership...

heroyalwhyness said...

This topic is finally getting some recognition and attempts are being made to get the word out . . .here is a link to a video posted at youtube . . .
Title: Femal Genital Mutilation
Posted by Laceybear 5:09

melonie said...

May I take a bold step with an honesty and explain, rightly or wrongly, that as a mother, when 'cleaning' my child I would not 'inspect'. And the anatomy of the female child (baby) is 'enveloped' in such a way that, on inspection of the 'cleansing' cloth I would know she were clean without need for inspection of that which is naturally hidden by the anatomy. I so hope that makes sense. But, another truth, alas, we woman can be so pitiously ignorant (naive? innocent?) that we wouldn't notice, because it would not occur to us to look for 'it'.

forgive me... but so often such cases direct scrutiny of the woman (mother) and subsequently 'judge' like it as not.

I sincerely hope you can understand me. Perhaps others will add comments to explain 'my experience' of a sorts.

kindest regards....


allen said...


An infant, toddler, or youngster having ungone the brutal process would need to be inspected because her behavior would lead directly to the injury. You have children?

Vicktorya said...

Thanks, Dymphna -
I'm posting the link to this in the 910 Group's forum, so it will help focus work around these issues.

Dymphna said...

melonie --

I agree with allen. If you are dealing with your child, who unbeknowst to you, has been mutilated, her behavior and her complaints about the pain would immediately lead you to at least bring her to the doctor, if you were not able to inspect the area that she was complaining about.

Doctors and child development researchers say this: children that young don't "say" what happened, they "act out" their inner world. And a 2 year old who has had her clitoris removed would be acting out big time.

It is the mother's purported ignorance of the situation for a year and a half that is so bizarre. How in God's name can any mother be deaf to a child crying in pain? How could she not go running to the doctor for help?

But this didn't come up for discussion until this couple were in an acrimonious divorce proceeding.

Sorry, but even your modest and polite dissent doesn't make it more plausible.

I keep thinking about Hirsi Ali and the fact that her *grandmother* performed the mutilation on her...she was five and had full recall -- which a two year old wouldn't have.

Occam's Razor teaches us to find the straightest road to the simplest explanation...which to me, *may* be this: the 'ritual' was the father's idea. The mother went along with it, and the grandmother, a pediatric nurse with access to anesthesia and instruments, performed the procedure. The mother took care to make sure no one else knew.

Another possibility is that this was done without the father's knowledge. But-- and I emphasize this -- common sense tells you it could not have occurred and not been discovered by the mother at the time of its occurence.

Finally, melonie, a question: what would you do if you saw blood on your child's diaper or underwear, or you noticed swelling? Think thru what your actions would be and then tell me why this went unremarked upon for 18 months...coincidentally, when the divorce was beginning.

Nilk said...

My daughter is 4 years old, and while I can agree that when cleaning and changing a toddler you don't look too closely, there is still no way on earth I'd miss any changes to my child's extremities.

I also agree with the acting out, as mine still does that.

I taught her from a young age what her bits are called, so that she can distinguish if there is ever anything not quite right.

From what I've seen of this particular case, my unlearned opinion is that it looks like the mother did it, or was a party to it, and when the separatino got acrimonious pulled out the trump card of child abuse by the father.

In this case also, she cn play the minority of cultural/religous victim as well as victim of male oppression.

That is my opinion only, and I do not condone in any way shape or form the cutting up of healthy bodies.

Subvet said...

Thanks for a reasoned commentary on this. One of the reasons I come to this blog is it's lack of emotionalism and hype. You set the standard on what we should strive for.

Anonymous said...

As a woman from Ethiopia, I can tell you that there is no way Khalid could have circumcised his daughter.

Men never ever do the actual cirucmcision of girls. If done, it is arranged by the grandmother or mother with a female practitioner.

The grandmother and mother did it to help their divorce case. They should be investigated for hurting the girl. The mother did not notice the circumcision because it was not done until she did it herself with her grandmother. She is lying.

Please see my blog on this issue

The whole case is a farce