Australian charged over genital mutilation of baby

SYDNEY (AFP) - An Australian man appeared in court Tuesday charged over the genital mutilation of his nine-month-old daughter in Indonesia, where police allege she was circumcised.

The child was taken to Jakarta for the procedure between February and March of 2012, according to documents tendered Tuesday in Sydney's Manly Local Court.

The incident didn't come to light until six months later, when the infant's mother took her to the doctor, the court was told.

She allegedly had her clitoral tissue removed and underwent a labial fusion, according to police documents in the case.

Her father, who has not been named for legal reasons, was arrested in December and charged with aiding, abetting or procuring female genital mutilation.

He is on bail and will return to court in March. It is only the second case of female genital mutilation to be brought before the courts in New South Wales.

Australian authorities say the practice, while often conducted in secret, is more common than the number of reports and prosecutions would suggest.

While no official data is available to measure the extent of the practice in Indonesia, it is common in the country of 240 million people, according to aid agencies.

Indonesia banned female circumcision in 2006 but backtracked in 2010, arguing that many parents were still having their daughters circumcised by unskilled traditional doctors who often botched the procedure.

Religious leaders and adherents say they are following the practices of Prophet Mohammed in having women circumcised so they are "clean".

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) about 140 million women and girls worldwide are living with the consequences of female genital mutilation, which is most common in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

WHO says the procedure involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls' and women's bodies. Immediate complications can include severe pain, shock, haemorrhage (bleeding), tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection) and urine retention.

Long-term consequences can include recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts and infertility

The procedure was banned by the United Nations in December 2012.