Manama: Authorities in Bahrain are investigating allegations that a five-year-old girl has been circumcised by a maid.
The girl, who could not be named, was living with her father in a Gulf country following his divorce from her Bahraini mother.
The couple married six years ago, but divorced soon after the birth of their only daughter. The mother won a custody battle in Bahrain in 2006, but the father eventually had custody of the daughter after a court in his country ruled in his favour.
The mother, however, won visitation rights and often made the trip to her former husband's country to be reunited with her daughter. She was also allowed to receive her daughter in Bahrain.
On the last visit to Manama, the 28-year-old mother noticed that her daughter was pale and refused to eat. A medical exam at a private clinic revealed that the girl's genitals have been damaged, prompting the concerned mother to seek a second opinion from Salmaniya Medical Complex, Bahrain's largest hospital.
A report prepared by Dr Fadheela Al Mahroos, the hospital's consultant pediatrician and chairwoman of the Child Protection Unit, confirmed that there had been a major disfiguration of the girl's genitals.
The mother refused to allow her daughter to return to her father and, through a lawyer, sought a court order to keep the child. A religious court subsequently issued a travel ban that effectively keeps the young girl in Bahrain and the public prosecution is now looking into the case and has ordered a fresh medical checkup.
Local child rights activists and doctors said that the case was shocking and painful.
"We have never come across such a case in Bahrain and we are all aware of the adverse effects of female circumcision on the sexual and maternal life of a woman," Dr Amal Al Jowder, head of health promotion, said.
Dr Fakhriya Dairi who runs a health counselling centre criticised the father.
"If what was mentioned about the girl's circumcision was true, the father is certainly to blame for mentally and physically torturing his own daughter. He must have been aware of what happened to his daughter," she said.