Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill

Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill

Member’s Bill

194—1

Explanatory note

General policy statement

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is a complex and multifaceted practice, deeply rooted in historical, cultural, social, and religious beliefs with unclear origins. It is often a rite of passage for girls entering womanhood and is commonly conducted between the ages of four and 13 years. FGM is often performed in unsterile conditions without the use of anaesthesia, and often in the absence of medical equipment. Cutting devices may include knives, razors, scissors, or sharpened rocks. This can lead to infection, haemorrhage and shock, as well as urinary and birthing complications in the longer term, and death.

The World Health Organization classifies FGM into four major types, with type four including all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterising the genital area. Type four is not covered by the Crimes Act definition at present. Therefore, under current law the practice of an incision in the clitoris can be considered a legal practice and a prosecution on this ground involving a four-year old child failed due to the limited definition, including excision, but not incision.

This Bill amends section 204A of the Crimes Act 1961 to update the definition of female genital mutilation to ensure all types of FGM are illegal in New Zealand and all women and girls are adequately protected from FGM. The definition proposed by the Bill also seeks to ensure that other practices, like elective cosmetic piercings, are excluded as this is not a type of FGM.

The current definition of female genital mutilation in the Act is limited and outdated as it does not specify all four types of FGM as defined by the World Health Organization.

This Bill will update the definition for the following purposes:

  • to bring New Zealand in line with international best-practice;

  • to ensure the Act is relevant and fit for purpose; and

  • to uphold New Zealand’s obligations to protect women and children as outlined in Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Clause by clause analysis

Clause 1 is the Title clause.

Clause 2 is the commencement clause and provides for the Bill to come into force the day after Royal assent.

Clause 3 identifies the Crimes Act 1961 as the Act being amended (the principal Act).

Clause 4 replaces the definition of female genital mutilation in the principal Act with a definition more closely aligned to that used by the World Health Organization.

Jenny Marcroft, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Golriz Ghahraman, and Jo Hayes

Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill

Member’s Bill

194—1

The Parliament of New Zealand enacts as follows:

1 Title

This Act is the Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Act 2019.

2 Commencement

This Act comes into force on the day after the date on which it receives the Royal assent.

3 Principal Act

This Act amends the Crimes Act 1961 (the principal Act).

4 Section 204A amended (Female genital mutilation)

In section 204A(1), replace the definition of female genital mutilation with:

female genital mutilation

(a)

means the excision, infibulation, or mutilation of the whole or part of the external female genitalia of any person; and

(b)

includes, but is not limited to,—

(i)

the partial or total removal of the clitoris, labia majora, labia minora, or the prepuce, or any combination of these:

(ii)

the narrowing of the vaginal opening by cutting or repositioning the labia majora, or the labia minora, or both:

(iii)

other harmful procedures intended to alter the structure or function of the female genitalia, such as pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, or cauterising