Harney considers law to ban female genital mutilation
MINISTER FOR Health Mary Harney is examining the possibility of introducing specific legislation to ban female genital mutilation (FGM), according to the Department of Health.
A spokesman for the department said legal advice obtained in 2004 indicated that the practice was covered by the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.
The spokesman said the advice “strongly indicated that female genital mutilation would constitute an offence under the . . . Act”. A conclusion has not yet been reached as to whether further legislation is necessary.
“The Minister is in the process of examining the possibility of introducing specific legislation to ban female genital mutilation in the context of UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s (UNCRC) recommendations,” he said. The UN had urged Ireland to prohibit the practice by law, he said.
However, the women’s health council has said the existing legislation would be “ineffective” in the prosecution of the practice. It recommended legislative changes in a report published last year. It said specific legislation similar to the previously proposed Act to Prohibit Female Genital Mutilation (2001) should be enacted.
The director of the network of African women living in Ireland, Akina Dada wa Africa (AkiDwA), Salome Mbugua, said she would welcome legislation to prohibit the practice in Ireland.
However, she said it “must include the principle of extraterritorially to reduce the risk to immigrant girls and women being taken abroad for the purpose of genital mutilation”.
She added: “Any legislation must be complemented by more responsive asylum processes to take account of FGM and gender-based violence as a form of persecution.”
Information provided by the Department of Health said 15 African countries have enacted legislation criminalising female genital mutilation. Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, United States (federal government and 17 states) and Australia (six out of eight states) also have laws criminalising the practice. France relies on existing legislation.