Migrant girls 'at risk' of mutilation

NEIL REID
Last updated 10:52 15/01/2012

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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.

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