Reilly explains Bill on female mutilation


A PROPOSED law to outlaw female genital mutilation has been drafted to avoid criminalising modern trends in cosmetic surgeries and piercings, Minister for Health James Reilly has told an Oireachtas committee.

Dr Reilly was responding to suggested amendments to the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill from Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who welcomed the proposed law but asked that an exemption allowing for some procedures to be carried out on women over the age of 18 be removed.

“It is not the intention of the Bill to criminalise certain forms of genital piercing and cosmetic surgery for aesthetic purposes. Unless the exemption is included, piercing and cosmetic surgery would be female genital mutilation,” Dr Reilly said.

“The wording acknowledges that adults have freedom of choice over cosmetic procedures that do not violate their human rights.” The approach was chosen following extensive consultation with the Attorney General and office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, he said.

He stressed there must be no resultant permanent bodily harm done to the woman, but said if the woman had not consented to the procedure the person performing the procedure could be prosecuted under assault legislation, even if no permanent bodily harm was done.

Labour TD Ciara Conway said it was crucial that attitudes to female genital mutilation were tackled where the practice persisted. She said she supported the idea of encouraging an alternative “rite of passage” for girls.

“Legislation on its own, I’m afraid, isn’t going to eradicate it completely,” Ms Conway said.

Dr Reilly said he welcomed the cross-party support for the Bill and praised Labour Party Senator Ivana Bacik, who has pressed for legislation in this area. The Bill now proceeds to report stage in the Dáil chamber.

He said the HSE was currently training health and social care professionals in issues surrounding female genital mutilation, which he said could result in very serious complications for women.