New Zealand one step closer to banning female genital mutilation

Almost all forms of female genital mutilation are banned in New Zealand.
Almost all forms of female genital mutilation are banned in New Zealand. Photo credit: Getty

Warning this story contains graphic content. 

A Bill banning all forms of female genital mutilation passed its first reading in Parliament last night. 

While most forms of FGM are banned in New Zealand, the Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill will align the legislation with the World Health Organization classifications. It will also close loopholes in the current law which exclude certain types of mutilation from the Crimes Act. 

"We hope everyone will see the value of removing any doubt about what constitutes FGM, as a step towards ensuring its complete eradication as a cultural process that harms women and girls," said Parliamentary officer Ruth Delaney in a statement. 

The Bill was described as "a critical step" by NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft.

"This Bill will close the loopholes and hopefully see an end to the importation of this barbaric practice," she said on Wednesday night.

"Women within communities affected by FGM had been pushing for New Zealand's law to be updated,"

"I hope this action will support and empower women from migrant communities."

More than 200 million women and girls are affected by FGM globally, with an estimated three million girls at risk of undergoing the practice annually.

WHO classifies FGM into four major types - 

  • Clitoridectomy - the partial or total removal of the clitoris. 
  • Excision - partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora. This can include removal of the labia majora as well.
  • Infibulation - the narrowing of the vaginal opening by creating a seal by cutting and repositioning the labia.
  • All other harmful procedures - for example pricking, incising, scraping and cauterizing the general area.

Under New Zealand's current law clitoridectomy, excision, and infibulation are all illegal. However, type four, general harmful procedures, is not covered by definition in the Crimes Act.