Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New campaign to stamp out female genital mutilation in Australia

It looks like 2013 is going to shape up as the year Australia focuses on female genital mutilation. FGM is illegal in Australia, to perform the procedure, or support the movement of girls to another country to have it done.

This week, Julia Gillard announced a range of activities aimed to find out exactly what is happening in Australia, provide education to both communities and health professionals, and review laws about FGM. The Australian College of Midwives supports this move and will be working the health minister, Tanya Plibersek to help her in any way we can.

I was talking to my husband about this the other night and he felt, as a non-health professional, that there has to be a raising of awareness of the general population, so that we not only know what FGM is, but understand the long-term implications of the procedure.  We also need to understand that FGM is a cultural, not religious, issue which in turn will help us understand how to address the problem.

What do you know about FGM? Have you come across it in your every day life? What would you do if a girl disclosed that she had had it done to her? If you are a midwife, have you ever come across it in your practice?

Image: 'haunting eyes'
Found on flickrcc.net


Leigh Blackall said...

There must be a dodgy trade agreement, or law getting slipped in under this distraction. Will they stop cosmetic "FGM" too? How about circumcision of baby boys? How or why has this become an issue in Australia?

Paula said...

Leigh, there is really no comparison between cosmetic surgery (done to consenting adult under clinical conditions), nor with male circumcision (which I am totally against as well). The issue of FGM is a not discussed in Australia as it is carried out secretly on little girls who are then too scared to talk about what their parents have done to them. I suggest you read this article written by an Australian survivor of FGM. The long term ongoing health problems are enormous, not to mention the incredible pain felt by the girls and teenagers who are held down and have their genitals sliced off without anaesthetic.

Paula said...


Leigh Blackall said...

Agreed, a consenting adult undertaking cosmetic surgery is different on fundamental legal ground. Someone not consenting, is being assaulted. You'd agree that they're similar on being a cultural issue, not religious though right?

That story was not very useful. I'm aware enough of the horrifying practice. I hate how like formular it blames the men, while it's the women who uphold the practice. I can't believe for a minute that there aren't many nen in such a culture who object to the practice.

How much of it goes on in Australia? How or why has this come up? Don't we already have laws that offer protection and justice for this sexual assault? We certainly have a dominabt cultural view that won't tolerate this, and an education system to back that up. What is the issue here?

If we know anything about politics and PR, it's unverifiable, undebatable stories like this that are used to distract or lead us to action with other motives. I remember the plethora of stories and movies around this and related issues, in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan for example. And child porn to justify regulation of the Internet that had no bearing on the traffic of child porn.

Without knowing why this issue is on again, or how our existing laws dont deal with it, I smell a rat as to its motive.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you both, Leigh and Paula, for your comments. As far as I understand, the government is holding an inquiry this year, so hopefully we'll see what's behind the government's concern.