FGM Debate Close

12 Apr 2017 newsspeechparliament

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:18): I rise to close the debate and thank honourable members for their contributions—the Hon. Gail Gago, the Hon. Tammy Franks, the Hon. Kelly Vincent, and the Hon. Stephen Wade



The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (17:18): I rise to close the debate and thank honourable members for their contributions—the Hon. Gail Gago, the Hon. Tammy Franks, the Hon. Kelly Vincent, and the Hon. Stephen Wade—and reiterate the recognition of the work of No FGM Australia. I think it is significant that some 20 or more years since this legislation has passed we have community members who are committed to making sure that this issue is highlighted.

In South Australia we have Khadija Gbla. Marika Ryan and Sally Cox have been very active, and nationally No FGM Australia is driven by Paula Ferrari. I thought when I called this motion to a close that I would be merely updating the chamber on the legal cases. When I moved the motion in October 2015 there was a case in New South Wales, to which the Hon. Stephen Wade has referred.

So, this information comes from Paula Ferrari of No FGM Australia. She says there have been two successful prosecutions in New South Wales, with guilty verdicts for four people, both in 2015. Three people from the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community were found guilty of female genital mutilation of two girls, both aged seven at the time. The crimes occurred in private homes in Sydney and Wollongong. The mother and the nurse who performed the cutting were sentenced to 11 months home detention. The imam who conspired to cover up the mutilation was sentenced to 15 months in jail.

The second case is the case of a man who took his nine-month old girl to Indonesia for female genital mutilation, which resulted in a 12-month suspended sentence, which we learnt about from the New South Wales police as this was not publicised. The current case is in court, and this email she sent me was dated February, so it is very recent.

In Queensland there is a case in the courts in Brisbane at the moment of two people who are accused of mutilating their daughters on a trip to Africa. So, that is an update on the particular cases that are taking place in Australia. They are the first ones, and I think it is part of the difficulty with this matter that a lot of the cases are taking place in a hidden way. If I can turn to the government's proposed amendments to the motion, I really take issue with the manner in which they have described it. I do acknowledge that governments have been attempting to take action, and I think I referred in my motion a year and a bit ago to the actions of the then Gillard government, to which other honourable members have referred as well.

The background paper, published in March 2013, referred to health in one of its recommendations. It was referring to the lack of information and, as a recommendation aimed at improving that, it said that it is recommended that the commonwealth, states and territories work together to identify potential opportunities for cooperation and improved information sharing between the health and legal systems to better make those connections.

In April 2013, there was a national summit—Tania Plibersek, I think, was presiding over that as the then federal health minister—and it made recommendations, including training and support for all professionals, and found that information must be consistent across all the health and social services, which really does get to the nub of the matter that, if we are to eliminate FGM in Australia, then it is the health and child protection professionals who need the greatest upskilling, if you like, or improvement in understanding of what the situation is, what are their responsibilities and what the risks are.

My colleague the Hon. Stephen Wade recited some statistics, which I think are pretty scary, that a lot of health professionals, who have probably come into contact with girls who have had this barbaric practice undertaken on them, are not aware of their responsibilities. On those grounds, I will not support the government's amendments to the motion.

The Hon. G.E. Gago: Shame on you. All that work people have done, it doesn't matter—


The Hon. G.E. Gago: It just doesn't matter—


The Hon. G.E. Gago: What an insulting thing to do.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Ms Gago, show a bit of respect for the member on her feet— it's her motion.

The Hon. G.E. Gago: It's an insult.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I was prepared to consider the government's amendment and I listened pretty attentively.

The Hon. G.E. Gago: No you didn't.


The Hon. G.E. Gago: She told me earlier on today she had no intention of—

Members interjecting:


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Mr President, the honourable member, through her interjection, is completely misrepresenting the conversation. She asked me if I would be supporting their amendment and I said it was unlikely, but if they could provide me some evidence that the people working in this sector had been vastly upskilled in things, then I would be all ears. I think those are probably pretty close to the words that I used. In any case, the honourable member has had her opportunity—

Members interjecting:

The PRESIDENT: Order! Hon. Ms Lensink, please take your seat. The Hon. Mr Wade.

The Hon. S.G. WADE: Point of order: I would ask you, Mr President, to give the member who has the call the opportunity to speak without being interrupted. She is clearly trying to engage the member in debate—

The PRESIDENT: I fully agree. The Hon. S.G. WADE: —and you have asked her to stop more than once.

The PRESIDENT: I would like to make it clear that this is a very emotional issue, on all sides, on both sides of this chamber. I do agree that the Hon. Ms Lensink should have the right to sum up without any interjection. So, the Hon. Ms Lensink, continue.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Thank you, Mr President. If the government has any evidence that there has been a lot of education provided to people working in this sector, then I would be extremely pleased and I would congratulate them on that. That remains to be seen.

I refer to the fact that I raised this matter in questions to the police minister in this house on 28 February this year. I received what I thought was a reasonably hopeful response from the minister. He seemed quite sympathetic and undertook that he would seek to get some more information. My office has followed that up and we are still awaiting that information—this is in relation to SAPOL and the freedom of information request that was made under the auspices of No FGM Australia—about whether the freedom of information request that they received in 2015, which reported that there had been no complaints in relation to female genital mutilation since the legislation was introduced in South Australia, stood. I look forward to receiving that in due course.

In relation to the substantive matter—the reason I said at the outset that I thought I was only going to be updating the chamber on the prosecutions that had taken place in other jurisdictions— there was some debate in the House of Assembly yesterday, and I can only say I was quite disturbed at some of the comparisons made by the member for Light and the Attorney-General in relation to female genital mutilation. I think they were making the comparison that there may be similar practices on boys and children of intersex. I struggle to understand what they were talking about. I can only assume that the member for Light was making some comparison between circumcision of boys and female genital mutilation of girls.

My understanding of male circumcision is that it is a declining practice in Australia. The BabyCentre website—before anyone accuses that of being some Google doctor search—is a very well-trusted, Australian parenting website, which relies on a lot of Australian and overseas evidence and is a great resource for new parents. Their information is that there are medical indications for male circumcision and there are no indications for female genital mutilation. The National Council of Women recently issued a report which has been provided to a number of us and, again, it repeats the negative health consequences of female genital mutilation: severe bleeding, cysts, infections, infertility, increased complications during pregnancy, high rates of newborn deaths and HIV. It goes on to say:

According to WHO, FGM reflects 'deep-rooted in-equality between the sexes', and [is] 'an extreme form of discrimination against women [and girls]'.

At the risk of listeners or readers becoming squeamish, I think it is worth actually reading, particularly for the benefit of the member for Light, who needs to inform himself—I think some of his views are somewhat Neanderthal—and potentially the Attorney-General, their own documentation, which is in the South Australian Perinatal Practice Guidelines, which refers to the different types of female genital mutilation. It states:


Type I Excision of the prepuce, with or without excision of part of or the entire clitoris. Other terms used to describe Type I include circumcision, ritualistic circumcision, sunna and clitoridectomy

Type II Excision of the clitoris with partial or total excision of the labia minora. Other terms used to describe Type II include clitoridectomy, sunna, excision, circumcision and infibulation

There are some diagrams that the member for Light might like to acquaint himself with and ask himself whether this, in any way, is relatable to male circumcision. It continues:

Type III Excision of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching/narrowing of the vaginal opening (infundibulation). Other terms used to describe type III include infibulation, Pharaonic circumcision and Somalian circumcision Type III can result in a very small opening which may cause difficulties in urination, menstruation and sexual intercourse, as well as serious problems in childbirth

Type IV Unclassified: includes Pricking, piercing or incising of the clitoris and/or labia Stretching of the clitoris and/or labia Cauterisation by burning of the clitoris and surrounding tissue Scraping of tissue surrounding the vaginal orifice (angurya cuts) or cutting of the vagina (gishiri cuts) Introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina to cause bleeding or for the purposes of tightening or narrowing it

So, if any honourable members have any misapprehensions, as I believe the member for Light possibly does, about what sort of procedures are involved in this, I hope that they no longer are. With those comments, I commend the motion as it is to the council.