A new campaign in NSW will highlight a support hotline for young women and harsh penalties for the “barbaric” practice of female genital mutilation, the NSW government has announced.
The female genital mutilation, or FGM, campaign targeted at multicultural media in NSW will run with the support of health workers in Western Sydney where many migrant and refugee communities live.
Also known as female genital cutting, or female circumcision, the practice remained widespread in many parts of the world, but was illegal in Australia.
The World Health Organisation estimated that approximately 125 million girls and women alive today had been subjected to the practice in 29 countries, mainly in Africa and the Middle East where FGM was prevalent.
Increased migration in recent years from countries where FGM was prevalent, posed problems for Australian health professionals and authorities.
“This barbaric ritual is just not acceptable, it is just not tolerable in our society.”
Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello, said the campaign was focused on breaking down the silence that existed around the practice within migrant communities but wasn't targeted at any particular group.
Listen to Peggy Giakoumelos speaking with Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello
"I don't want to name any community over another but if any group or any sub-set, or any element of society thinks it's appropriate, well then think again, because it's not and that's why we've increase the laws around it."
Early in 2014, the NSW Government increased the maximum sentence for people convicted of performing FGM from seven to 21 years.
“If you are engaged in the practice of FGM you can expect to get a maximum penalty of up to 21 years imprisonment.”
“This barbaric ritual .. is just not acceptable, it is just not tolerable in our society.”
“We need to make sure that people that come to our country, or people that have been in our country, or people that think it is one of those things you can import, should think again.”
The government also made it an offence to remove someone from the state with the purpose of performing FGM.
The awareness campaign will be implemented by NSW Health's Education Program on FGM with the aim of educating communities about the practice as well as encouraging girls and women who are affected to seek help.
Minister Dominello said everyone, including men, were being targeted in the campaign, which will commence in 2015.
"Whether it's men women, practitioners, we are targeting young girls who may be subjected to it, they still have a chance of expressing a voice. We're reaching out to them, saying 'listen this is wrong. You don't need to be subjected to this. If you need help there is a hotline here."