New Zealand Law Society - Bill to clarify definition of female genital mutilation

Bill to clarify definition of female genital mutilation

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The Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament on 4 December 2019.

The bill amends the Crimes Act 1961 to update the definition of female genital mutilation (FGM) to ensure that all types of FGM are illegal in New Zealand and all women and girls are adequately protected from FGM.

The four members-in-charge of the bill are Jenny Marcroft, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Goliz Ghahraman and Jo Hayes.

FGM is a practice that is deeply rooted in historical, cultural, social and religious beliefs with unclear origins. It is often a rite of passage for girls entering womanhood and is commonly conducted between the ages of four and 13 years. It is often performed in unsterile conditions without the use of anaesthesia and without the use of medical equipment. Cutting devices may include knives, razors, scissors or sharpened rocks. This can lead to infection, haemorrhage and shock, as well as urinary and birthing complications in the longer term, and death.

The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies FGM into four major types, with type four including all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterising the genital area. Type four is not covered by the Crimes Act definition at present. Therefore, under current law the practice of an incision in the clitoris can be considered a legal practice and a prosecution on this ground involving a four-year old child failed due to the limited definition, including excision, but not incision.

Clause 4 amends section 204A of the Crimes Act, replacing the definition of FGM to a definition more aligned with the WHO definition.

The Act comes into force on the day after the date on which it receives the royal assent.