A Father stands trial over daughter’s circumcision
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 10/22/06
A father stands accused of the unthinkable: brutally cutting his daughter’s genitals. The girl was only 2. Khalid Adem, 30, was charged with aggravated battery and cruelty to children more than three years ago and, if convicted, could face 40 years in prison. He was born in Ethiopia, where circumcision is a common procedure for young girls.
“When I saw that child I saw myself. I could see the pain in her eyes,” said Soraya Mire, a filmmaker and activist who was circumcised when she was 13 in Somalia. Mire is known for her 1994 documentary “Fire Eyes” in which she chronicled her struggles after having the procedure.
Mire, who now lives in Los Angeles, was asked by Gwinnett authorities to counsel the victim in 2003 when it was discovered that she had been circumcised.
“She hugged me, and I just burst into tears,” Mire said. “Since that day, I’ve been obsessed with finding out who did this to that child.”
Police say Adem circumcised his daughter with scissors in his Duluth apartment, while someone else held the girl’s legs.
Adem has said through his defense attorney W. Mark Hill that he was innocent. Hill said the allegations stem from a bitter divorce and custody battle the couple was going through at the time. Hill has said the family of the girl’s mother, Fortunate Adem, also is from Africa and could have performed the circumcision.
Opponents claim the procedure, which may involve the removal of the clitoris or all of the external genitalia, is extremely painful, medically unnecessary and unsafe. It is illegal in the United States and has been condemned by the United Nations. The centuries-old practice is performed for many reasons, including to curtail sex drive and preserve virginity. It also is a prerequisite for marriage in some cultures, experts say.
It is difficult to document the number of female circumcision prosecutions in the United States. Although Congress passed a law in 1996, many states still do not have their own laws forbidding the practice. But experts who follow the issue say arrests for female circumcision are rare.
“To our knowledge, this was the first documented case of [female circumcision] in the United States,” said Bien-Aime, whose organization, which has offices in New York, London and Africa, has been following the issue since 1992. “We will be monitoring the trial and hope that it will help bring awareness to the issue.”
Adem’s arrest also had an impact on Georgia law. In 2003, there was no state law in Georgia that addressed female circumcision. That’s why Adem was charged with aggravated battery and cruelty to children.