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Female genital mutilation

According to the laws of all States and Territories, female genital mutilation is a criminal act. These laws apply to acts committed overseas as well as in Australia to protect Australian residents from being taken overseas for the purposes of female genital mutilation.

What is female genital mutilation?

Female genital mutilation refers to procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It may range from the nicking of the female genitalia to what is known as 'infibulation' which involves the removal of all external female genitalia and the closure of the vaginal opening. Female genital mutilation can have serious and long-lasting health consequences.

The World Health Organisation estimates that between 100-140 million women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation procedures worldwide, and an additional three million girls are estimated to be at risk of undergoing the procedures every year.

In December 2012, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed resolution A/RES/67/146 condemning the practice of female genital mutilation and encouraging member states to intensify efforts to eliminate this harmful practice. The Australian Government recognises female genital mutilation as a violation of the rights of women and girls and supports all necessary measures to stop female genital mutilation on a global scale.

Is female genital mutilation a criminal offence?

Yes, it is. Female genital mutilation is not tolerated in Australia. It is a criminal act in all States and Territories.

These laws apply to acts committed overseas as well as in Australia to protect Australian residents from being taken overseas for the purposes of female genital mutilation. For example, in most States and Territories it is an offence to take a child overseas or arrange to take them overseas with the intention of having female genital mutilation performed on them.

Penalties for performing female genital mutilation, or for removing a child from a jurisdiction for the purpose of female genital mutilation, range from a maximum of 7 to 21 years' imprisonment.

How do I report a suspected case of female genital mutilation overseas?

If you are worried that you or someone you know has been taken overseas for female genital mutilation, please contact the nearest Australian overseas mission. You can also call the Department’s 24/7 Consular Emergency Centre at 1300 555 135 (from Australia) or +61 2 6261 3304 (from overseas).

What support is available in Australia?

If you have concerns that you or someone you know is at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation you should report it immediately to your local police.

Contact details for your nearest police station can be found on the following State and Territory websites:

Health, legal, family and community support services are available to assist Australian citizens and residents who have been affected by female genital mutilation. 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) is an inclusive, free and confidential professional counselling service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A full translation service is available to people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Australian Survivors of Torture and Trauma works with survivors who have come to Australia from overseas. They have an agency in each State or Territory.

For additional local support services contact the health department in your State or Territory.