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Court awards damages after genital mutilation test

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08:46 CEST+02:00
Uppsala Municipality has been ordered to pay 60,000 kronor ($8,400) to the family of a girl of Somali origin who was forced to undergo an examination to check whether she had been circumcised.

Uppsala social workers forced the then 10-year-old girl to submit to the examination to see whether she had been subjected to genital mutilation (circumcision) while on a family holiday in Kenya in 2004. The girl was collected by police from school shortly after returning from a visit to relatives.

The girl's family took their case to the Discrimination Ombudsman (DO) which ruled in 2007 that the social workers' suspicions constituted discrimination.

Discrimination Ombudsman Katri Linna concluded in her 2007 ruling that the suspicions "were based entirely on the fact that the parents have Somalian heritage."

The decision to examine the girl was taken despite the fact that the parents had told their district nurse and social workers that they were opposed to female circumcision and that they were going to Kenya with the sole purpose of seeing their relatives.

The examination showed that the girl had not been circumcised.

In taking the municipality to court, DO argued that officials had made no effort to gather evidence that would enable a proper decision to be reached. The girl herself was not given a chance to explain her situation and she was not offered any extra support.

"The social services' actions were based on the family's ethnicity. The child's rights and the rule of law were set aside," Linna said.

The municipality argued in return that the girl's family showed reluctance to cooperate in the social services' investigation, but the district court rejected this explanation.

The family's ethnic origin "permeated the municipality's entire management of the case", the court argued in its ruling in favour of DO.

The girl's parents will each receive 15,000 kronor, and the girl 30,000 kronor. DO had sought 100,000 kronor for each of the parents and 150,000 kronor for the girl.

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