The Gillard Government announced yesterday it will take action to stop the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation in Australia.
In addition to boosting funding for awareness and education programs in the community, the Minister for Health Tanya Plibersek (pictured here with Julia Gillard), will hold a national summit on female genital mutilation in Australia early next year.
According to a media release from the PM’s press office dated 11 December, the Gillard Government began investigating the issue of female genital mutilation in Australia following a report on ABC TV’s 7.30 program in October 2012.
The UN World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of female genital mutilation. Female genital mutilation intentionally alters and causes harm to the female genital organs for no medical reason. It is often performed on girls under the age of ten and is a violation of the human rights of women and girls.
To tackle the problem of female genital mutilation in Australia, the Gillard Government would immediately provide $500,000 in grants to fund organisations to run education and awareness activities and support change within communities. New research and data collection on female genital mutilation would also be undertaken.
Furthermore, the Attorney-General will review the current legal framework in Australia and provide advice on whether any changes are required to ensure full protection against female genital mutilation, at home or abroad. The Federal Government will be asking for cooperation from the states and territories to implement these measures.
The Minister for Health will also hold a national summit on this topic early next year, bringing together community, health, legal and policing experts to discuss Australia’s response to female genital mutilation.
At this stage there are no official figures on how widespread this practice is in Australia but there have been instances of female genital mutilation reported in the media, and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest these are not isolated.