Girls and women in New Zealand ´at risk´ to undergo FGM

17 Jan

As published in the New Zealand Magazine:

An international study says “a growing number” of girls and young women living in immigrant communities in New Zealand are at risk of genital mutilation.

The practice – which involves the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons – is banned in New Zealand.

Any person who carries out the procedure, or orders it to be done to a dependant, may be imprisoned for up to seven years.

The Ministry of Health last year funded a series of workshops on the practice, with those present being told there was no evidence that the controversial female circumcision operations occurred in New Zealand.

It is a stance that is also shared by the NZ Female Genital Mutilation Education Programme – a community-based initiative partly set up in response to the rising number of women settling in New Zealand from countries that practise the procedure.

But a newly released United Nations report on a hoped-for global end to female genital mutilation states: “The practice is prevalent in 28 countries in Africa and in some countries in Asia and the Middle East.

“In addition, a growing number of women and girls among immigrant communities have been subjected to or are at risk of female genital mutilation in Australia and New Zealand.”

Under New Zealand law, it is illegal to send or make any arrangement for a child to be sent out of the country to have the practice performed, to assist or encourage any person in New Zealand to perform the procedure on a New Zealand citizen or a resident outside of the country and to convince or encourage any other New Zealand citizen or resident to go outside of New Zealand to have the procedure performed. The law was passed in 1996 and to date there have been no prosecutions.

The New Zealand FGM organisation says some female migrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Indonesian Muslims had undergone female circumcision before arriving in the country.

Somalia is among the countries that the procedure is most practised in. Thousands of Somalis have sought refuge in New Zealand since the early 1990s after the African nation was wracked by civil war.

3 Responses to “Girls and women in New Zealand ´at risk´ to undergo FGM”

  1. Renee January 24, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    I would like to bring to your attention the current state of Female Genital Mutilation in New Zealand.

    When I read the article produced in NZ that you have linked to your website I immediately contacted the reporter Neil Reid. It alarmed me that this article was only saying that girls were ‘at risk’ and that the the NZ Female Genital Mutilation Education Programme and the Ministry of Health were saying that there is no evidence of FGM being carried out in NZ.

    We in fact KNOW that FGM IS happening in NZ, all the health and community workers KNOW this and NO-ONE is doing anything about this…yet.

    My Great Uncle Noel has produced a report on this (13 pages) from interviews with police officers, community workers, social workers, ex Somali Council members, Somali Research Network, Refugees as Survivors Trust and staff at the Wellington Public Hospital providing a very real insight as to what is happening and how genital mutilation is occurring – it is not an uncommon practice and the NZ laws are not being followed or upheld by the Police. Almost every person he interviewed said the practice must stop, but no-one was prepared to report or act on what they were seeing.

    My Great Uncle Noel is in his 80’s and does not access FaceBook or the internet so has asked that I contact you to make sure you are aware of the New Zealand situation as it is today.

    The aim that Noel had was to not seek prosecutions but to stop the mutilation by cooperation with the immigrant communities, in particular by persuading the males that they will be punished if the practice continues. Noel has given this report to the NZ Police and has held meetings with the Commissioner for Police (both the outgoing and the new one). He has been trying to get action on this for almost 2 years and now that this is being reported the Police (as of Friday) are going to start taking some action.

    Our young Somali girls are not being protected by the law that was designed to stop this happening and to quote Noel “Somali men must be taught that we take our laws seriously when our children are being abused.”

    Personally I cannot believe that not one prosecution has been taken since it became law, the softly softly approach clearly does not work and until this abhorrent practice is actually made illegal and enforced in NZ we all have a collective responsibility to educate and push this out in the open until not one more girl is mutilated.

    Neil Reid is doing another article in the Sunday Star Times on this – I wonder if you can push this more publicly as well?

    Can we save 1 girl right now in New Zealand or all our children from ever having this happen? Please tell me we can .

    • Frances March 12, 2013 at 3:55 am #

      Renee, would you be able to drop me a line? Our magazine is currently working on an FGM story and it sounds like you have a lot of important information on this… frances @ m2magazine.co.nz

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