A new law banning female genital mutilation (FGM) is long overdue and must be rolled out immediately, it was claimed today.
Health Minister Mary Harney is still reviewing whether to outlaw the practice, but the Labour Party said legislation was introduced in Britain 25 years ago.
At a seminar held in Dublin to mark International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, Labour Senator Ivana Bacik said legal clarity was needed.
“The reason why we need such legislation is because there is a lack of clarity as to whether a defence of consent might apply to any parent charged with assault arising out of allowing FGM to be practised on their daughter,” Ms Bacik said.
The seminar outlined the priorities in Ireland and overseas in combating FGM.
It also discussed legislation, implementation, human rights violations and community engagement.
Salome Mbugua, National Director of AkiDwA, which supports African and migrant women, said international solidarity was vital if there was to be a zero-tolerance approach to the practice.
“FGM violates women and girl’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death,” Ms Mbugua said.
It is estimated that there are over 2,500 women living in Ireland who have been subjected to FGM.
Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty International Ireland, said Ms Harney must move forward with plans to ban the practice.
“Refugee law needs to be clarified to ensure we fairly assess cases based on a well-founded fear of FGM. These are vital steps towards protecting the human rights of women and girls in Ireland,” Mr O’Gorman said.
“We also need to see supports for doctors, nurses and social workers dealing with women who have been subjected to FGM.”
The Department of Health said the matter was still under review.