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Legislation
NOTES ON SOME OVERSEAS COUNTRIES' LAWS
A number of overseas countries, including countries which have migrant populations, have already confronted this issue have done so in a variety of ways. The position of some overseas countries is therefore briefly examined below.
 
Canada: Canada's 1993 Bill C-126 to amend the Criminal Code and Young Offenders Act received Royal Assent on 23 June 1993. Clause 3 of the Bill creates section 273.3 of the Criminal Code which is designed to extend domestic protection to children who are normally resident in Canada, from their removal from Canada with the intention of committing assault causing bodily harm, aggravated assault or any sexual offense. While having general application, the offense was initially developed in response to a concern that Canadian domestic law did not provide sufficient protection against the practice of female genital mutilation.
  • The offense applies to anyone engaging in the prohibited conduct in Canada. Additionally, its protection extends to all children ordinarily resident in Canada, whether citizens or landed migrants.
  • The offense has general application, but was initially developed in response to a concern that Canadian domestic law did not provide sufficient protection against the practice of female genital mutilation. Action was seen as necessary in conformity with Article 24(3) of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which provides: "State parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children."
  • Section 273.3 is preventive in nature as it allows for intervention before harm is done to the child. However, it is acknowledged that it will not prevent abuse in all cases and this remains an issue of concern. The Canadian view is that further steps require an international convention to establish principles on which States will protect children subject to abuse beyond their borders.

  • Work is currently under way with the Canadian Medical Association and the relevant migrant associations to provide education on the health and legal aspects of the practice of female genital mutilation. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has declared that any doctor performing female genital mutilation could be guilty of professional misconduct.
Europe: The Council of Europe has not specifically addressed the question of female genital mutilation. It is understood the position is several countries is similar to France. Sweden was one of the first countries to specifically condemn female genital mutilation. It banned health professionals from performing the operation in 1982.
France:
In France female genital mutilation is not specifically penalized by French law but is actionable as a mutilation under Article 312 of the Penal Code which punishes violence against children. Under this Article, a penalty of 10-20 years imprisonment is imposed. Where the mutilation is carried out by a parent or guardian, a life sentence is imposed. Generally professional persons who perform female genital mutilation, and are solicited by the parents, are treated more harshly than the parents of the child, who can often rely on such matters as respect for customary law and social pressures.
    The Medical Ethics Code 1979 forbids the practice of female genital mutilation except where medically required. The French Medical Board is not aware of any breaches of the Code. Furthermore, where a doctor observes that a child under the age of 15 years has been the victim of maltreatment or neglect, the doctor is required to alert the authorities.
United Kingdom: The Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985 (UK) prohibits female genital mutilation in the UK. The Act is supplemented by the Children Act 1989 which provides for the investigation of suspected violations of the female genital mutilation prohibition and enables the removal of the child from her home where this is the only way her protection can be guaranteed. The Children Act also empowers the courts to prohibit parents from removing their children from the country to have the operation done elsewhere.