Amendments to the Crimes Act 1900 last night passed the NSW Parliament, ushering in tough new penalties for committing the crime of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and paving the way for an awareness campaign in communities where the practice may occur.
The maximum sentence for performing FGM has now been tripled to 21 years, from seven years previously.
The maximum 21-year penalty also applies to a person convicted of a newly created offence of removing a person from NSW with the intention of having FGM performed on them.
The amendments, introduced by the NSW Liberal and Nationals Government in March 2014, mean new maximum penalties reflect the severity of the offence. They also send a message that these offences will be treated as a serious form of assault.
Minister for Women Pru Goward welcomed the passing of the amendments.
“It is so important that every young girl in NSW, and their families, understand female genital mutilation is a crime which will not be tolerated.
“No matter if you are a doctor performing FGM underground or a parent who believes it is culturally appropriate, the message is very clear: the community says no,” Ms Goward said.
Attorney General Brad Hazzard said he was pleased the Parliament had agreed with the Government’s tough stance on this heinous crime.
“For too long the penalties for this crime have not matched the community’s views. We have now ensured that judges have appropriate penalties they can utilise – penalties that are in line with community expectations” Mr Hazzard said.
Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello said the new criminal penalties would be complemented by a comprehensive awareness campaign.
“We are working in partnership with multicultural leaders to ensure victims get the professional support they deserve and that all communities, regardless of language or faith, understand our zero tolerance approach to this barbaric practice,” he said.
Mrs Skinner said NSW Health will ensure its FGM educational program promotes awareness of the new legislation.
“NSW Health’s Education Program on Female Genital Mutilation will continue to be a key part of the effort to prevent female genital mutilation through its work among relevant communities and with health professionals,” Mrs Skinner said.