AUSTRALIA: Aussie Girls Face Cruel Ritual of Genital Mutilation

FEARS that Australian-born girls as young as three months are being flown to Africa to undergo barbaric circumcision operations have been reported to the Department of Child Safety.

The Sunday Mail has learned that Family Planning Queensland has approached the State Government asking that a process be established to protect the children.

The organisation fears that female genital mutilation is on the rise in Queensland with the increased number of African refugees arriving in the state in recent years.

African girls face genital mutilation under the cultural traditions of countries such as Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Mali and Liberia.

The practice was made illegal in Queensland in 1994.

It is also against the law to remove a child from the state to have the procedure carried out, with the offence carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment.

Female genital mutilation project manager Odette Tewfik from Family Planning Queensland said anecdotal evidence had convinced her that the procedure was becoming more common here.

"We have 11 bilingual workers from those communities who say people in the community believe that it (genital mutilation) is essential," she said.

"They are being told that it is happening but it is impossible for us to gather hard evidence."

Ms Tewfik said she had been contacted by people who believed children they knew had been taken back to Africa for the procedure, which involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia.

"What I am saying is, where are the child safety protocols to protect the child before going, and after coming back, from overseas?" she said. "That is my request from the Government. The Child Safety Department has to provide safety for the child."

In 2005 it was estimated that 50,000 women in Australia, including  5000 in Queensland, came from countries where FGM is practised. Ms Tewfik said that number had grown exponentially with continued immigration.

"We need a system protecting our children . . . working with police, working with child safety . . . what I want is for them to find a way to protect the children so they don't go away and come back circumcised."

United Nations figures show three million women and girls face FGM every year.

In a major announcement in February, 10 UN agencies pledged to support efforts to eliminate it.

Former Sudanese Community Association president Daniel Zingifuaboro said he did not believe the practice was widespread within his community.

"Most of the Sudanese in Queensland are from southern Sudan where this is not part of our culture and it is not condoned," he said.

Hamza Shale of Brisbane's Somali community said the subject was not spoken about openly in his community.

"It could be a possibility. It is a cultural thing some families feel very strongly about," he said.

Minister for Child Safety Margaret Keech said she wanted to discuss the issue with Family Planning Queensland.

"I would be very concerned if this practice is occurring," she said.


AUTHOR: Edmund Burke

URL: Click here

DATE: 30/03/2008

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