The NSW Government is increasing penalties for people convicted of performing female genital mutilation (FGM), and is for the first time making it a crime to remove a person from NSW to undergo the procedure overseas.
The maximum sentence for performing FGM will be increased from 7 years to 21 years. In addition, a new offence of removing a person from NSW with the intention of having FGM performed on them will be introduced, also attracting a maximum sentence of 21 years.
Minister for Family and Community Services, and Minister for Women Pru Goward said female genital mutilation was an abhorrent offence which would not be tolerated by the community.
“Every little girl in NSW deserves the chance to have a normal, happy life. These changes send the message loud and clear that no matter whether you are the doctor holding the scalpel, or the parent buying the plane ticket, the penalty will be the same,” Ms Goward said.
“This crime has profound effects on women’s health such as infertility, childbirth complications, and infant & maternal mortality during and shortly after childbirth. The NSW Government is making it very clear the practice is simply not acceptable.”
Attorney General Greg Smith SC said it was important the penalties for FGM matched the long-term effects on victims.
“Existing penalties for this heinous crime simply were not adequate. With these changes, NSW now has the toughest penalties in Australia, equal with Tasmania,” Mr Smith said.
Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello said a new awareness campaign by the NSW Government would focus on breaking the code of silence about the practice within migrant communities.
“We want everyone in NSW to understand, regardless of cultural background or language, FGM is a serious crime in our state and there will be no excuses for anyone who performs or facilitates the procedure,” Mr Dominello said.
Minister for Health Jillian Skinner said it was often health professionals who detected and reported cases of FGM, and who delivered long-term treatment for victims.
“Often the crime can go undetected for years, first coming to the attention of authorities when an adult presents to a clinician during pregnancy.
“Through the Multicultural Health Communication Service, NSW Health will assist in the development of education campaigns for culturally diverse communities to enhance awareness of these increased penalties and the long-term health impacts on victims,” Mrs Skinner said.