On 19 December 2000, the committee of the General Medical Council took action to remove Dr. Abdul Baten Jalal Ahmed from the medical register for his willingness to perform Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on the three young girls. The GP, who trained in Calcutta and has been practising in England since the 1960s, is a senior partner in a practice in Stoke Newington, north London. The Doctor was secretly filmed at his home in Manchester in March 1997, by a female journalist who requested that he carry out FGM on her eight-year-old daughter and two older girls.
This film formed part of the Channel Four documentary ‘Black Bag: Cutting the Rose’, which was filmed in collaboration with FORWARD. The tape gave evidence of the doctor agreeing to perform the procedure saying “I will do the circumcision at my home today. It will not be free, it will cost £50”. The doctor offered to perform infibulation on the other girls “I can do circumcision and the stitch because they are older.”
Female genital mutilation is illegal in the UK under the ‘Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act’ of 1985 yet it is estimated that between 3 and 4,000 procedures are carried out in this country each year. Very little action has been taken to identify doctors who are performing this illegal operation and it is not known to what extent the practice is medicalised in the UK.
The General Medical Council (GMC) however holds a very strong opposing position to FGM. Says Vivien Cross of the GMC “certainly where we have evidence that a doctor performs or is willing to perform FGM – either through the police notifying us of a criminal conviction or through a compliant about the doctors conduct – we will pursue disciplinary action against the doctor.”
In a similar case in 1994, Dr Faruk Sadiq who was based in Harley St. London was struck off the Medical Register for performing FGM. His licence to practice was reinstated in 1997.
During the hearing the Doctor denied he had ever carried out FGM. His lawyer told the GMC that the GP was hard of hearing and thought they were discussing the circumcision of boys.
The GMC did not find this account credible and stated that the ‘evidence to the contrary is overwhelming’. The evidence that a doctor was willing to perform…’an abhorrent, mutilating and illegal operation for which there was no medical grounds’ appalled the committee.
Concern and Action
Taking into account public interest and patient safety the doctors registration was suspended immediately and unless the right to appeal is exercised will be removed indefinitely.
This news is a definite breakthrough in the campaign against FGM, and FORWARD hopes it will act as a deterrent to those carrying out FGM in the UK, medically or otherwise. More effort should be made to identify doctors who continue to practice FGM and stronger disciplinary action should be taken to ensure that these doctors never practice again.