A mother who took her four-year-old daughter to be circumcised was sentenced to one year in prison Wednesday in the north of the Ivory Coast, where such convictions are rare.
A relative who accompanied her for the procedure on March 11 received the same jail term, as well as a fine of 360,000 CFA frances ($600), in what prosecutors said was a “warning” to those still carrying out female genital mutilation on young girls.
Another mother, whose five-year-old daughter was also mutilated in the same village, was acquitted, while the person who carried out the circumcisions has gone on the run and is wanted by police.
The sentence is the lowest possible under Ivorian law.
“This is a warning,” said prosecutor Hamed Diomande.
Despite efforts by aid workers to raise awareness, he said, “you continue to circumcise your children”.
“The next time, the punishment will be heavier,” he continued.
Female genital mutilation is a “tradition”, one of the defendants said in court, saying they had not known it was against the law and promising to never do it again.
Nine women were sentenced to jail terms in 2012 for the female circumcision of around 30 young girls in Katiola, in what the United Nations said was the first criminal prosecution of its kind in Ivory Coast.
Female circumcision affects around 38 percent of the female population in Ivory Coast, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
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.
Wednesday’s conviction is “a positive sign,” said Louis Vigneault-Dubois, spokesman for UNICEF in Ivory Coast.