In 2017, Martina Obi-Uzom and her husband took their 11-month-old son to be circumcised.
Except she wasn’t his mother; she was his babysitter. His 70-year-old babysitter.
And the guy wasn’t his father; it was some guy she recruited.
And they didn’t have the permission of the boy’s parents. They just ran off with him when the parents were out of town.
So… let’s try again: In 2017, Martina Obi-Uzom kidnapped a child and had a slice of his penis cut off against his will and his family’s wishes. For that, and despite the fact that she was convicted by a jury, a judge gave her a sentence of no jail time and a fine of just over £1,500.
Why was the sentence so light?
If you listen to the judge, it’s partly because Obi-Uzom was inspired by her faith.
Judge Freya Newbery told her: ‘You have a Christian belief in circumcision that has great cultural and religious significance to you…
The judge added that ‘there was no parental consent’ however, and ‘that is what is missing here.
No. No no no no no. The lack of parental consent may have been the legal problem, but there were a whole host of additional ones. Obi-Uzom misrepresented herself. She forged a document. She got a mohel to slice off a piece of a boy’s genitals.
If this were a girl, or if religion wasn’t in the picture, or if we were talking about using a knife on any other part of a baby besides its foreskin, maybe the concerns would be more obvious. But because Obi-Uzom is Christian and because male circumcision isn’t totally taboo, she was spared from a 14-month jail sentence.
The judge wasn’t done praising her either.
‘I accept your intention in your mind wasn’t to harm the boy and you are a woman of impeccable character,’ [Newbery] said.
‘You have worked in the community promoting the needs of less fortunate children. You are a professional person, a pharmacist, highly qualified and devoted to your family.
‘Both of the parents gave evidence and there has been a deep impact on you because of these criminal proceedings, but you brought it on yourself.‘As a pharmacist I recognise your profession is under jeopardy as is potentially your ability to travel to family in America with this conviction.’
Good lord… what sort of judge praises a criminal for assaulting a child?
That’s what the National Secular Society wants to know:
It will strike many people as bizarre to describe a woman who took a baby in her care to have his genitals cut in defiance of his mother’s wishes, and used highly deceitful means to do this, as of “impeccable character”.
It will also strike many people as irrelevant that she is a “highly qualified”, “professional” person; why should one’s education and occupation entitle someone to leniency in such a case? It could be argued that Obi-Uzom’s profession — a pharmacist — means she should have known better. Her high level of education, which would involve specialist knowledge in healthcare, means she is in a better position to understand the harms and risks of circumcision than the average person, not to mention the ethics surrounding parental and patient consent.
The NSS also wants to know why a mohel just accepted the idea that the 70-year-old woman was a mother of a toddler, why we know nothing about this man who posed as the father (and why he’s not facing any charges), and why the General Pharmaceutical Council (the profession’s regulatory agency) hasn’t issued some sort of sanction against Obi-Uzom. All are good points. We haven’t even discussed the problem of the circumcision itself even if all these other issues weren’t in the way.
The biography for Judge Newbery, by the way, says she runs “ethics training” for her organization. Good luck finding anything ethical about her ruling here. No toddler should get a life sentence while his assailant gets a mild slap on the wrist.
(Image via Shutterstock)