July 9, 2013
Genital mutilation talk 'deterrent'
by Aleisha Orr
The first female genital mutilation case believed to have made it to court in Western Australia may have fallen through but a researcher with expertise in the field says the issue needs to remain in community discussions to act as a deterrent to others.
Curtin University researcher Anne Aly said the fact that charges were initially laid in relation to the matter sent "a very powerful and strong message" to those who may be considering organising the procedure.
A northern suburbs mother and father were alleged to have organised the illegal circumcision of their baby girl in Bali and were arrested at Perth Airport in August 2012.
Their identities were suppressed throughout the matter.
Prosecutors dropped the charges on the grounds that there was not a reasonable prospect of conviction.
The lawyer of the couple who had the charges against them dropped, Hylton Quail told media outside the court on the couple's last appearance "there was never any offence, there was never any medical evidence to support the charge in the first place."
Dr Aly said the dropping of the case did worry her, that the only way for a case to be proven would be once the procedure had already gone ahead.
"How do you prove intention and get enough evidence," she said.
"It unintentionally says you have to go through with the process to prove intention.
"It certainly is a test case for the law."
Dr Aly said rather than sending the message; "don't do it, it is illegal" the focus should be more on the health and welfare of children.
"You have to put children's welfare first, that's a much better deterrent," she said.
Dr Aly said education needed to be a continuous process as the practice was most prevalent within those who had moved here from other countries where it was done as a cultural practice.
"As more migrants and asylum seekers come in they need to be aware of the legal implications and health and psychological affects."
In Victoria the practice has "significantly increased" as a result of a rise in migration and refugee settlement according to the state's health minister who is now calling for federal funding to match state funding to cover support and prevention services.
Female circumcision is performed in some cultures and religions, but is illegal in Australia.
It is illegal to perform, arrange or take a child out of the state for such a procedure.
Its occurrence is believed to be underreported in WA.