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Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Page: 256


Mr DUTTON (Dickson) (16:45): On behalf of the coalition, I am pleased to support the minister's remarks and her announcements today and to respond on this important issue. This practice devastates the lives of millions of young girls. The health consequences are severe and the psychological trauma will burden these girls for life. It causes increased rates of infant mortality, infection and severe sexual and reproductive health complications. One hundred and forty million women worldwide are estimated to have endured this brutal practice and three million are at risk of the procedure this year alone.

The World Health Organization advises that this grotesque practice is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15. In Africa, an estimated 101 million girls 10 years old and above have endured the practice. That it is evident in this country is of particular and grave concern to all Australians, with the UN reporting that a 'growing number of women and girls among immigrant communities have been subjected to or are at risk of female genital mutilation in Australia and New Zealand, as well as in countries in Europe and North America'. It must be clear that this is not an acceptable cultural practice and that it is illegal in every jurisdiction in this country.

I would also like to acknowledge the work of individuals, including Professor Banks and all her colleagues. Thank you so much for the work you do. I acknowledge non-government organisations, health services, health professionals and relevant colleges for the work provided to support girls and women affected and the great strides that have been made to generate greater awareness on this incredibly important issue. Undoubtedly, many women suffer in silence. The work of those that provide much needed support, health interventions and mental health services must be invaluable at a personal level to these women, who have suffered so much.

Reassuringly, as the minister highlighted, progress is being made, with thousands of communities across the world abandoning the practice according to the United Nations. The International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation is an important opportunity to bring attention to the devastating effect of this practice and to renew our efforts to support its elimination. The coalition today recommits to this fight.