Genital Alteration and Mutilation

Girls and women may undergo a range of genital alteration procedures. Some, such as some intersex surgery or labial reduction, are performed once with permanent effects. Some are done against the person’s will or practised on children too young to understand the implications of the procedure, while others are chosen to change appearance.  Some, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), are illegal and legislated against in many countries; others, such as genital cosmetic surgery, are available. All are based on socially constructed understandings of the way women’s genitalia should be if girls and women are to be appropriately ‘female’ and sexually desirable.

Female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal because it is harmful to the health of women and girls and New Zealand is a signatory to the following International Instruments and conventions that encourage and oblige action against FGM including The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 25), The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (Articles 2f, 5a,12) and The Convention on the Rights of the Child (Articles 2, 19.2, 24.1, 37a, 24.3)

In New Zealand FGM is illegal under an amendment to The Crimes Act (section 204A) 1961 which states that it is illegal to perform “any medical or surgical procedure or mutilation of the vagina or clitoris of any person” for reasons of “culture, religion, custom or practice”.

It is unlawful to circumcise a female, remove or cut out any part of the female genital area, stitch up the female genital area, cut the clitoris or part of the clitoris or damage the female genital area in other ways. It is against the law to perform FGM even if the woman or girl wants it to be done or to send a woman or girl out of New Zealand for FGM to be performed. If someone performs, helps, or gets someone else to perform FGM, they are breaking the law and may be imprisoned for up to seven years.

Complications include hemorrhage, shock, severe pain, dislocated hip joints and infection. Long term complications include infertility, sexual difficulties, childbirth complications, psychological effects, neurinoma, recurrent urinary tract infections or abscesses.

Useful links

FGM New Zealand »