Posts Tagged ‘female genital mutilation’

The Female Genital Mutilation Act 2010?

April 21, 2010 7 comments

Today, Senator Ivana Bacik of Labour (pictured left) will be introducing a Bill to prohibit Female Genital Mutilation in the Seanad during the Labour Party’s private members’ time.  The Bill and its Explanatory Memorandum are available here. The Minister for Health and Children has welcomed the Bill, indicating that it will be read a second time in a year or so. Labour’s press release notes that FGM Bills were introduced by Labour TDs Liz McManus (see Bill here) and Jan O’Sullivan (see Bill here) in the Dail in 2009 and 2001. Senator Bacik has said:

We urgently need a law specifically criminalising this barbaric practice which has destroyed the lives of so many girls and women world-wide. I welcome the Minister’s commitment to address this issue, but there has already been a great deal of work done on developing a legal framework, and delaying the introduction of this legislation by another year is unacceptable.

Senator Bacik’s Bill would:

  • Introduce an offence of performing female genital mutilation on a woman or girl (note the gender-specific nature of the offence), the penalty for which shall be a fine or a term of imprisonment up to 14 years or both.
  • Have extra-territorial effect so that an Irish citizen or resident who performs FGM outside of Ireland still falls within the terms of the Act.
  • Rule out any defence of parental consent in the case of a minor.
  • Allow a medical defence where the procedure was performed by a registered medical practitioner who ‘honestly believed, on reasonable grounds, that the operation was necessary to safeguard the life or health of the woman or girl concerned or to correct a genital abnormality or malformation’.

The Bill appears, to some extent, to take its cue from the UK Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. In that jurisdiction, the legislation has fallen at the prosecution hurdle, and thus appears to have largely symbolic and perhaps deterrant value. For open-access articles which critique the UK legislation see this study by Sadiya Mohammad on the legislation’s efficacy and this article by Moira Dustin and Anne Phillips which considers the legislation in the broader context of UK law-making in the general area of women + gender + culture.

Read more…

Call for Ban on FGM in Ireland

February 5, 2010 3 comments

According to a report in the Irish Times, a number of participants at an event held by the National Steering Committee on Female Genital Mutilation to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM called for a stepping up of the campaign for a new law banning the practice of FGM in Ireland.

During the event, serious concerns were expressed about whether the current legal framework in Ireland served as an effective tool for addressing the practise of FGM. While Government advice has indicated that female genital mutilation constitutes an offence under assault laws, speakers at the seminar said distinct legislation was needed.

According to the Irish Times report, a spokesman for Minister for Health Mary Harney said: “The question of introducing specific legislation to ban female genital mutilation remains under review. However, we cannot be specific on a timeframe for this review at this stage.”

The Irish Steering Committee came together in early 2008 to develop the Plan of Action to address Female Genital Mutilation, which was finalised in late 2008. The report is a valuable source of information on the practise of FGM in Ireland and elsewhere. The document highlights that ‘a proactive and coordinated response is required to prevent the establishment of the practice [of FGM] in Ireland and to provide care for women and girls living in Ireland who have already undergone FGM in their country of origin’. It identifies a number of strategies ‘as being essential to addressing FGM in Ireland and in other countries through Irish development policies’, focusing on actions under 5 strategy headings: legal, asylum, health, community and development aid. From a legal perspective, the report quotes earlier research carried out by the Women’s Health Council which, amongst other things, highlighted the shortcomings and the inappropriateness of existing legislation in terms of prosecuting FGM. Read more…

Izevbekhai Supreme Court Appeal to be Heard Next Year

November 14, 2009 1 comment


Thursday saw the latest installment in the long-running case of Pamela Izevbekhai (pictured above). Ms Izevbekhai first sought asylum in 2005 on the basis that her two young daughters Naomi and Jemima were at risk of female genital mutilation in their home country of Nigeria. See here and here for information on female genital mutilation and refugee law. Ms. Izevbekhai says that her eldest daughter Elizabeth bled to death as a result of the practice. The Times gives further details of the story here. A documentary on the case is on Youtube and details of a grassroots campaign in support of the Izevbekhais are here. Amnesty International, Residents Against Racism, the NWCI, Fine GaelThe Rape Crisis Centre and the Children’s Rights Alliance, have all at various points expressed support for the family.

Ms. Izevbekhai has been through the asylum process and her application has been rejected. In I v. MJELR [2008] IEHC 23 Ms. Izevbekhai asked the High Court to quash the deportation orders made by the Minister on foot of his decision to deport her and her daughters. The High Court failed to find any basis for judicial review and refused to quash the order. Ms. Izevbekhai has appealed to the Supreme Court. The State has brought a motion to have her appeal struck out on the grounds that fraudulent statements were made in her original High Court actions. The State sets out that a death certificate and medical documents used by her to evidence the death of her daughter Elizabeth’s death as a result of female circumcision were forgeries. Ms Izevbekhai represented herself on Thursday after her fourth set of lawyers sought to withdraw from the case, apparently because they had received certain threats, which are reportedly the latest in a series made to Ms. Izevbekhai and her supporters. A fifth legal team will take up her case in time for next year. Maeve Sheehan reported on this week’s Supreme Court proceedings in the Independent here. Ms Izevbekhai plans to rely on alternative documents in the course of her appeal. Her position is that while the documents were forged (she insists that her husband obtained them without her knowledge) the facts that they were used to prove are true. A series of conflicting media interviews with men claiming to be the doctor who attended Ms. Izevbekhai at the time of her daughter’s death have further muddied the waters in this respect, as has the Nigerian government’s much-disputed claim that female genital mutilation is unknown in Nigeria. The State has insisted on engaging with the case to the full extent permitted by the law, on the basis that Mrs Izevbekhai has engaged in ‘deception’ and has abused the asylum process. On Thursday, the Chief Justice ruled that due to the volume of cases waiting to be heard by the court, her appeal  could not be given the priority being sought by lawyers for the State. It will be heard next year.