When will domestic violence advocates protect girls from female genital mutilation?

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There are an estimated 100-140 million women and girls alive today who have been subjected to female genital mutilation, these figures are provided by advocacy group, No FGM Australia. Like so many issues, the actual figures may be much, much more than this. Given these estimates, around one in 25 women in the world are likely to have their genitals mutilated. This is appalling.

According to Paula Ferrari, head of No FGM Australia, thousands of Australian girls are at risk of genital mutilation. This practice has spread to Western countries including Australia from Arab and African countries, and is increasing. Despite the increasing prevalence of female genital mutilation in Australia, prosecution for this offence has only occurred for the first time this year. Thousands of girls in Australia are currently at risk of having their genitals mutilated, or have already been, and the first ever prosecution against it has only happened now. What on earth is going on?

Given the increasing prevalence of this practice in the West, and the clandestine veil which appears to shroud it and silence its victims, you would presume that there would be a plethora of resources out there to assist victims and potential victims to legally address and end its occurrence. Yet, a cursory view on some of Australia’s leading domestic violence websites yields no resources or information to combat this violent practice.

Female genital mutilation is now one of Australia’s most serious domestic violence issues, yet it is all but ignored by domestic violence advocates, law enforcement organisations and the judiciary. Why is this happening?

Unfortunately, this issue is left to a small number of brave people like Paula Ferrari of No FGM Australia who are willing to speak up against this barbaric practice, a practice which has no place in Australian, or any civilised society for that matter.

I commend Paula Ferrari for her important work as she defends some of the most vulnerable in our society. And I call upon leaders against domestic violence and their peak bodies to put the scourge of female genital mutilation front and centre in their campaigns so this practice can be eradicated.