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Female genital mutilation: Australian law, policy and practical challenges for doctors

Ben Mathews
Med J Aust 2011; 194 (3): 139-141.

Summary

  • The issue of whether medical practitioners should perform “ritual nicks” as a method of meeting demand for female genital mutilation (FGM) has recently been debated in the United States and Australia.

  • Due to increasing numbers of people arriving and settling in Australia from African nations in which FGM is customary, demand for FGM in Australia is present and may be increasing.

  • Australian law clearly prohibits performance of any type of FGM.

  • FGM is also prohibited by the most recent policy of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG).

  • For legal, medical and social reasons, the RANZCOG policy is sound, and medical practitioners should not administer FGM in any form.

  • Development of an evidence base regarding incidence of and attitudes towards FGM, and the need for post-FGM treatment, would help inform sound policy and practical responses.

  • Strategies adopted in African nations to abolish FGM may assist in refining educational and supportive efforts.

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  • Ben Mathews

  • Faculty of Law, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD.

Correspondence: b.mathews@qut.edu.au

Competing interests:

None identified.

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  • 14. Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) s. 74.
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  • 20. Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) s. 32.
  • 21. Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA) s. 306.
  • 22. Adam T, Bathija H, Bishai D, et al. Estimating the obstetric costs of female genital mutilation in six African countries. Bull World Health Organ 2010; 88: 281-288.
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