The Australian Government will boost community awareness and education campaigns and review Australia’s legal framework in an effort to stop the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in this country.
Following a disturbing report on ABC 7.30 in October, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health have been investigating additional measures that can be undertaken to address this devastating practice.
The stories told on 7.30 were tragic. These are stories all Australians should heed – governments, police, the medical profession, communities, families and individuals.
Female genital mutilation intentionally alters and causes harm to the female genital organs for no medical reason. The UN World Health Organization estimates that 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of female genital mutilation.
It is often performed on girls under the age of ten, and represents a violation of the human rights of women and girls. Its occurrence in this country cannot be excused by culture. The Gillard Government today announced it would immediately implement the following measures:
- Provide $500,000 in grants to fund organisations to run education and awareness activities and support change within communities, as public education and awareness is key to change.
- New research and data collection on female genital mutilation will be undertaken as a priority. This will help build the evidence needed to support women and girls affected by female genital mutilation.
- Minister Plibersek will hold a national summit on this subject early next year, bringing together community, health, legal and policing experts to discuss how to increase awareness and support, and reduce the incidence of FGM in Australia.
- The Attorney-General will review the current legal framework in Australia, and provide advice on whether any changes are required to ensure full protection against female genital mutilation, at home or abroad.
These measures will be led by the Minister for Health, who will coordinate efforts across the Government at the request of the Prime Minister. The Minister has been meeting with experts and key stakeholders over the last few weeks.
The Gillard Government will be speaking with states and territories to seek their cooperation on this issue.
All Australian states and territories have already enacted legislation making female genital mutilation a criminal offence, with penalties in some states of up to 20 years imprisonment.
In November this year United Nations member states approved a draft resolution urging member states to take the necessary measures to protect women and girls from this harmful practice and to end impunity.
This resolution is expected to be acted on by the United Nations General Assembly later this month.
Media release – Gillard Government to Act on Female Genital Mutilation