Australia takes tough line on female circumcision

Australia takes tough line on female circumcisionSydney - Female circumcision is called female genital mutilation (FGM) in Australia and it's a crime.

Those performing it face a possible seven-year prison term and those who don't report it risk a stiff fine.

In Sydney's outer suburb of Auburn, there's a specialist FGM clinic that has been in operation for over 10 years and sees around 40 women a year.

The typical patient is in her 20s, is about to wed, and was operated on by a village midwife in an African or Middle Eastern country when she was young.

The clinic adopts the World Health Organization definition of FGM as a surgical procedure "involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons."

There is anecdotal evidence that the law is being broken and FGM is being performed in Australia. Ten doctors have reported being approached by parents looking to have it done.

There is also a suspicion that parents skirt local law by taking their daughters to their homeland to have the operation performed there which is also an offence.

Earlier this year, a judge in the Family Court set a precedent by confiscating the passport of an African-born citizen and that of his 9-year-old daughter "just in case the purpose that I have mentioned is in fact what he has in mind."

The father, who described himself as a "respectable Muslim scholar in the Muslim community," insisted he was opposed to FGM and that he had no intention of taking his daughter to Africa for that purpose. His wife, who was also questioned, said that she too was against the practice.

It was the second time that the Family Court had addressed the issue. In the first case, which involved another family, the court ordered the parents to be "restrained from visiting upon the child the act of circumcision, or any other surgical procedure with like effect, and allowing any other person to do so." (dpa)