Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) - Armstrong Legal

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This article was written by Michelle Makela - Legal Practice Director

Michelle has over 15 years experience in the legal industry, working across commercial litigation, criminal law, family law and estate planning.  Michelle has been involved in all practice areas of the firm and in her personal practice has had experience in litigation at all levels (State and Federal Industrial Tribunals, the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, Federal...

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)


In New South Wales it is an offence to cause injury to the genitals of a girl or woman. This offence is known as female genital mutilation.

What is female genital mutilation?

The offence of Female Genital Mutilation prohibits excising (cutting out), infibulating (sewing up) or otherwise mutilating certain parts of the female anatomy for a non-medical purpose. The term “otherwise mutilates” has been defined as “any injury to any extent for a non-medical purpose”.

Causing injury to a girl or woman’s genitals is prohibited under all circumstances, except where it is required for medical reasons such as child birth or sexual reassignment. It is not a defence if the girl or woman consents to or asks for the injury to be inflicted.

A person can be charged with this offence if they perform, or have someone else perform, a religious ceremony or any other act where a woman or girl’s genitals are injured. Examples include where a girl or woman’s genitals are wholly or partially removed, cut, stitched up or bruised.

It is also an offence to take a child overseas for the purpose of performing female genital mutilation or having female genital mutilation performed on them.

The maximum penalty for the offence of female genital mutilation is 21 years imprisonment.

The Offence of Female Genital Mutilation

The offence of Female Genital Mutilation is contained in section 45(1) of the Crimes Act 1900 and states:

A person who:

  • excises, infibulates or otherwise mutilates the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person, or
  • aids, abets, counsels or procures a person to perform any of those acts on another person,

is liable to imprisonment for 21 years.

What Actions Might Constitute the Offence of Female Genital Mutilation

Examples of Female Genital Mutilation include:

  • Having a doctor cut out a baby girl’s clitoris;
  • Taking your daughter overseas to have a nurse circumcise them by removing part or all of the clitoris;
  • Asking your gynaecologist to perform a religious ceremony where a small cut is inflicted on your genitals;

What the Police Must Prove

To convict a person of female genital mutilation the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That you did an act or that you aided, abetted, counselled or procured someone else to do an act;
  • The act involved part of the female anatomy being excised, infibulated or mutilated (injured to any extent); and
  • The part of the female anatomy was the labia majora, labia minora or clitoris.

Possible Defences to female genital mutilation

The common ways to defend this charge are:

  • To argue that part of the female anatomy was not excised, infibulated or mutilated;
  • To argue that it was not the labia majora, labia minora or clitoris that was excised, infibulated or mutilated; or

Which Court Will Hear Your Matter?

The charge is strictly indictable which means that the matter will be finalised the District Court or Supreme Court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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