Share this: Female genital mutilation is NOT ok.


Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of female genital mutilation that may be upsetting for some readers.

Disturbing news yesterday with reports a father in Sydney has been charged with having his then nine-month-old baby daughter allegedly circumcised overseas in 2012.

It was only six months later that the mother realised what her partner had done when she took her baby to the doctor.

The NSW Child abuse squad were alerted and man was charged with aiding/abetting/counseling or procurement of female genital mutilation.

He was given conditional bail and is scheduled to appear in court on Jan 28.

However it has now come to light that the practice is much more common than we know in Australia, and by Australians travelling overseas.

In a disturbing interview on ABC radio, the NSW Minister for Family and Community Services Pru Goward said that toughening the law on this hideous crime was not an option.

She said community engagement and education was needed to prevent more young girls being targeted.

“It’s so easy to hide within a community that condones it, within a household that condones it,” Ms Goward said.

Anecdotal evidence showed the practice was “more common than the reports would suggest”.

Village surgeon performs female genital mutilation on teenage girls from Uganda

An estimated two to three million girls are subjected to the practice of female genital mutilation each year throughout the world.

Scarily this is approximately 7,000 women or girls per day.

More than 120,000 migrant women in Australia have suffered genital mutilation.

In 2010, the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne reported it was seeing between 600 and 700 cases of women each year who were victims of FGM.

Worldwide, the United Nations estimates that 130 to 140 million women have undergone the procedure.

So what is female genital mutilation? According to the human rights site ‘Right now’ it:

Involves the cutting off of the outer genitalia. In some cases it is the clitoris and in others it is the external genital tissue in its entirety. In more extreme cases “infibulation” takes place, during which the vagina is sewed up or healed over, with a small hole inserted before healing to allow for menstruation and urination. Apart from the fact that the removal of healthy genitalia seriously compromises basic functions of the body, it also can cause extreme pain, shock, the possibility of hemorrhage, the possibility of bacterial infection, urination difficulties and open wounds.

The practice is often carried out without anesthesia, in an unhygienic environment and it is generally done to children between the ages of seven and ten, prior to puberty. The long-term consequences of the procedure can include chronic urination difficulties, complications in childbirth, infant mortality, reduced sexual pleasure and unsurprisingly, a number of psychological issues.

Mamamia has previously written about FGM – setting out the reasons why parents subject their daughters to it:

FGM is carried out for cultural reasons, not religious ones. Many parents believe without FGM their daughters will not be able to marry. Others believe that uncircumcised girls will have overactive sex drives, or that female genitalia are and dirty and FGM is it is a type of ‘cleaning’ or ‘cleansing’. It has also been reported that there is a belief in parts of Burkina Faso and Nigeria that if a baby touches the clitoris during childbirth, it will die.

Yesterday’s prosecution is only the second in NSW in relation to female genital mutilation and is believed to be the first time a person has been charged with procuring the procedure while overseas.

Just two years ago eight members of a small religious order in Sydney were charged over the female genital mutilation of two sisters, aged six and seven.


Their case remains before the courts.

Also in 2012, in Western Australia, Police charged a Perth couple with travelling to Bali and subjecting their baby daughter to the practice.

At the time of the 2012 cases the ABC interviewed a young Indian woman called Zarine, who moved to Australia eight years ago.

Women from the Bohra community outside a mosque in Mumbai.

She came from a Muslim sect known as the Dawoodi Bohras, who originate in India.

Zarine told the ABC of her experience with what she called ‘traditional cutting’.

She was five when her grandmother told her they were going to the market.

Instead, she was taken to a house where she was pinned down.

“There were about three other women there – they were sitting and chatting. They were from the same community because they were speaking the same language,” she said.

“They asked me to take my underwear off … I just wanted to run out of there. I knew there was something going to happen to me.

“I don’t know if it was two of the women or just one. She pinned me down with her legs pretty much and I had my legs wide open and one of them was holding my hands behind me.

“I don’t remember seeing anything but after that I felt a very sharp pain. I still remember that. I still remember that pain.”

In March, The Japan Times reported on the practice in Indonesia.

female genital mutilation
An Indonesian mother brings her toddler for circumcision in Bandung, West Java Province. Source: The Japan Times

The article quoted a mother who’s five year old daughter had had her clitoris pierced with a sewing needle on a bed during a circumcision ceremony of 120 girls in a school hall-turned-clinic on Indonesia’s island of Java.

The five-year old girl cried and screamed, the Doctors ‘cheered encouragingly’.

The article stated, “Doctors say the procedure will have no effect on the girl, her sexual pleasure in later life or ability to bear a child.”

“I’m happy. My daughter is now clean,” her mother Yuli, said.

She believes the ritual will nevertheless have an effect.

“Many girls are getting pregnant out of wedlock these days,” she noted. “Circumcision hopefully will prevent my daughter from becoming oversexed, and will make her less amorous when she grows up.”

Back in Australia the practice is often well hidden from authorities. Pru Goward said that it was often conducted in “secretive and very well-conspired arrangements”.

She said that the government had looked at tightening the laws, but felt increasing the penalties would not necessarily stop the crime from occurring.

“The law is tough enough,” she said. “I think what does need to happen is that our immigration authorities have to get much more vigilant about advising communities that it is not lawful in Australia.

“We need to change attitudes and culture, that’s a much slower process than changing the law.”

How can you help?

Share this post to spread the message about FGM and inform our community.

Women who have had FGM performed on them need to know they can talk to their health care professionals about any discomfort or pain they may experience.

Parents need to know it is against the law to practice this on their daughters in Australia.

There are a number of campaigns to stop female genital mutilation, including many grassroots campaigns to create change within communities.