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What is FGM?

Female genital mutilation comprises “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. Female genital mutilation is a form of violence, predominantly committed against children. It is not only child abuse, but serious sexual abuse, grievous bodily harm and a violation of human rights. There is no excuse, whether religious or cultural, for violence against children.

Does FGM happen in Australia?

Yes. In Australia there have been several prosecutions involving girls who have either had FGM in Australia or been taken overseas for FGM. In addition, professionals are aware of girls being taken for FGM, and doctors have been asked to perform female genital mutilation. At this point there is no government data collected about female genital mutilation, however No FGM Australia estimate that three girls a day are at risk in Australia. It is wrong to assume that if girls do not present with acute genital injuries, that FGM is not happening in Australia. It is wrong to assume that because someone comes from an FGM affected community that they will subject their daughter to FGM, however these girls are still considered in the highest risk group.

Have you been subjected to FGM?
If you were born in Australia or taken from Australia for FGM, please donate 5 minutes of your time to complete our short survey

Condemn the practice, not the people:
It is difficult for Australians to shake their fear of appearing to be racist, in their attempt in order to make up for the policies of previous Australian governments
However the fear of calling out practices such as female genital mutilation for what they are has led to a new form of racism.
That is where little girls are being left unprotected by Australian laws because those around them are scared to offend their parents.
In Australia all little girls are entitled to the same protections, regardless of their colour or background.
All Australians need to be aware that some little girls are in danger of violence in the form of female genital mutilation.

FGM Globally

Female genital mutilation is known to be prevalent in 29 countries in Africa, plus several Middle Eastern Countries and some in Asia and South East Asia including India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia.
FGM has been universally condemned by the World Health Organisation in a resolution which was passed in 2013, and there are ongoing global campaigns aimed at stopping FGM.
Because of immigration, FGM has now spread to countries such as UK, Europe, USA, NZ and Australia.

Female genital mutilation targets little girls, baby girls – fragile angels who are helpless, who cannot fight back. It’s a crime against a child, a crime against humanity. It’s abuse. It’s absolutely criminal and we have to stop it.

– Waris Dirie –

Effects of FGM

about-fgm2There is a long list of harmful effects of FGM including short and long term effects. Within a western cultural context where FGM is considered as a form of mutilation, and where sexual function is celebrated, there can be additional psychological effects.

Some of the immediate harm includes:

  • Haemorrhagic shock and neurogenic shock from severe pain
  • Bleeding to death
  • Infection

Longer term harm includes:

– Chronic pain, chronic pelvic infections, development of cysts, abscesses and genital ulcers, excessive scar tissue formation, infection of the reproductive system, decreased sexual enjoyment and psychological consequences, such as post-traumatic stress disorder

Additional risks for complications from infibulations include urinary and menstrual problems, infertility, later surgery (defibulation and reinfibulation) and painful sexual intercourse. Sexual intercourse can only take place after opening the infibulation, through surgery or penetrative sexual intercourse. Consequently, sexual intercourse is frequently painful during the first weeks after sexual initiation and the male partner can also experience pain and complications.

Within a western context like Australia where female genital mutilation is not an acceptable practice, women and girls who immigrate to Australia who have been mutilated can feel socially isolated, and experience psychological trauma because they are not like the other women in their new home who have not been mutilated. They may even feel trauma that their bodies are now considered to be mutilated in a Western context, where in their country of origin it may have been a celebrated or highly valued status.

Types of FGM

There are a range of sub-classifications of FGM which have been suggested. We believe that there are no types of FGM that are the “worst” types, as each form can result in severe problems physically, psychologically and sexually.

The types are:

Type 1

Clitorodectomy : partial or total removal of the clitoris and clitoral hood

Type 2

Excision : partial or total removal of the clitoris, clitoral hood and the labia minora (small lips) and or labia majora (large lips)

Type 3

Infibulation : partial or total removal of the clitoris, clitoral hood, labia minora and majora. Complete stitching of the remaining opening such that a small hole remains the size of a grain of rice for urination, menstruation, sex and child birth.

Type 4

All other forms of interference with the genitals for non-medical reasons including pricking, cutting, burning.

Sources

World Health Organisation FGM Fact sheet http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/
UNICEF, Legislative reform to support the abandonment of FGM/C, accessed at http://www.unicef.org/policyanalysis/files/UNICEF_-_LRI_Legislative_Reform_to_support_the_Abandonment_of_FGMC_August_2010.pdf

Sydney Morning Herald, First female genital mutilation case to go to trial in NSW Supreme court, http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/first-female-genital-mutilation-case-to-go-to-trial-in-nsw-supreme-court-20141209-1237h7.html

Sydney Morning Herald, Father charged over alleged genital mutilation of infant daughter, http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/father-charged-over-alleged-genital-mutilation-of-infant-daughter-20140101-306kk.html

Moeed,SM& Grover, SR (2012) Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C): survey of RANZCOG fellows, diplomates& trainees and FGM/C prevention and education program workers in Australia and New Zealand, Aust N Z J ObstetGynaecol Dec;52(6):523-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22998362

No FGM Australia: New report: 3 girls a day at risk of FGM. http://nofgmoz.com/2014/03/25/new-statistics-of-girls-at-risk-of-fgm-in-australia/

No FGM Australia, submission to Royal Commission into Family Violence, May, 2015

No FGM Australia fact sheet: How do I know who is at risk of FGM? http://nofgmoz.com/how-do-i-know-who-is-at-risk-of-fgm/

Effects of FGM, Amnesty International, http://www.endfgm.eu/en/female-genital-mutilation/what-is-fgm/effects-of-fgm/

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