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IFPA joins others in call for specific legislation against Female Genital Mutilation

By December 9, 2003News

– Release date: 09 December 2003

A coalition of organisations is calling on the Government to introduce legislation to prohibit Female Genital Mutilation from taking place in Ireland.

The coalition, which is drawn together by the organisation for development workers, Comhlámh, includes the Irish Family Planning Association, Akidwa (Network of African Women) and Labour Party Women.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which is not specifically prohibited under Irish law, constitutes all procedures which involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs, whether for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons.

Many European countries, including Britain, have now moved to enact specific legislation to outlaw the practice of FGM. It is important for Ireland to make a similar move not only to ensure that women and girls are protected from this dangerous practice, but to show leadership in ending this harmful practice against women globally. According to the World Health Organisation, over 120 million women and girls worldwide are affected by FGM.

“Anecdotal evidence suggests that FGM is becoming a very real issue for in Ireland for some women and girls. Any prevention strategy requires an approach that includes legislation aimed specifically against the practice of FGM, alongside education on the complexities and sensitivities of the issue,” said Majella Darcy, a Comhlámh member who first came across FGM while working as a development worker in Sudan.

The Coalition has prepared draft legislation, which it is now calling on the Minister for Health and Children to bring forward for enactment by the Oireachtas. This legislation is based on similar legislation enacted by other EU member states.

The group has also called for education and awareness raising on FGM, which it believes is crucial if the legislation is to be effective, and the harmful consequences of FGM understood by those who are at risk of FGM, and those carrying it out. “In addition, health workers, teachers and social workers should be aware of how to detect signs that FGM has taken place so that girls and women can be referred for appropriate medical treatment or counselling,” said Ms Darcy.

Members of the Coalition met with officials at the Department of Health and Children on these issues last week.