The Irish Times view on female genital mutilation: zero tolerance

The incoming government must prioritise a national action plan on this form of violence

The first conviction for female genital mutilation (FGM) in the State is an illustration of the value of the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation Act) 2012.

The African parents of a then one-year-old child were given prison sentences after medical personnel alerted gardaí when the father brought her to hospital with bleeding from her perineal region. Evidence was given to the effect that because of the type of FGM in this case, there will be no future physical effect on the victim’s urinary system, no obstruction to her vagina, no menstrual problems and there will be no effect on her ability to have sexual intercourse.

Such major post-FGM problems are not uncommon; the most extreme form of FGM involves the total removal of the girl’s external genitalia as well as a deliberate narrowing of the vagina. The procedure does not routinely involve the use of an anaesthetic or antiseptic agent. More immediate complications of FGM include severe pain, extensive bleeding, shock, genital tissue swelling and infection (including the risk of developing HIV).

FGM is most commonly practised in east Africa. Based on 2016 data, an estimated 5,790 women and girls living in Ireland had undergone FGM. And as many as 1,632 girls living in Ireland are estimated to be at high risk. But FGM is a global issue and its prevalence is shocking. In Europe alone nearly 350,000 girls are at risk, while in Africa some three million girls are in danger from the practice every year.


At the ICPD25 Nairobi summit last November, Minister for Children Katherine Zappone outlined a number of initiatives in the area of FGM that the Government was committed to. These included the implementation of education and public awareness campaigns as well as specific training to increase the knowledge and competence of healthcare providers.

The incoming government must prioritise a national action plan to further these aims. Violence against women and girls – and that’s what FGM is– cannot be tolerated.