In January we made a submission in support of the Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill. We also proposed that an obligation be imposed upon all medical practitioners to provide relevant details to their local Medical Officers of Health whenever, in their daily practice, they observe a case where FGM has been performed on patients who were born in New Zealand on or later than 1st January 1996 when the FGM relevant parts of the Crimes Act 1961 came into force.
You can read our full submission below.
Submission to the Health Select Committee currently considering the Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill.
The Humanist Society of New Zealand (Inc.) is a secular organisation that supports Human Rights.
The Society wishes to express its strong support for the Bill and believes it to be an important addition to New Zealand’s legislation. We are pleased to see the definition of FMG extended to include all four categories as defined by the World Health Organisation, and in particular, the new inclusion of such damaging practices of pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, or cauterising. We are strongly of the view that no exceptions should be permitted on the grounds that relative to the current definition within the Crimes Act 1961, these latter practices might be defended as minor or symbolic.
Despite our strong support for the Bill’s current content, we nevertheless propose an extension. At present, no one knows, or can know, the extent of the practice of FGM in New Zealand despite its illegality. No organisation in the Health sector, national or local, gathers statistics on its incidence as there is no legislated obligation placed upon the Health sector to gather the relevant statistics. The country can therefore be described as keeping itself officially in ignorance of the incidence of FGM. It lacks the information upon which a more determined program to reduce or eliminate it could be based, if found to be necessary. Because the Society regards this state of affairs as unsatisfactory, we propose that the Bill be extended to rectify it, using practices related to notifiable diseases and conditions as a guide.
At present an obligation is imposed upon all medical practitioners to provide details of all cases of notifiable diseases to local Medical Officers of Health. This obligation is defined in Part 3 Clause 74 of the Health Act 1956. It appears below.
Quotation from the Health Act 1956.
74 Health practitioners to give notice of cases of notifiable disease
(1) Every health practitioner who has reason to believe that any person professionally attended by him is suffering from a notifiable disease or from any sickness of which the symptoms create a reasonable suspicion that it is a notifiable disease shall—
(a) in the case of a notifiable infectious disease, forthwith inform the occupier of the premises and every person nursing or in immediate attendance on the patient of the infectious nature of the disease and the precautions to be taken, and forthwith give notices in the prescribed form to the medical officer of health, and, if the disease is specified in section A of Part 1 of Schedule 1, to the local authority of the district:
(b) in the case of a notifiable disease other than a notifiable infectious disease, forthwith give notice in the prescribed form to the medical officer of health.
A list of non-infectious disease exists as Schedule 2 of the Act, Section A being concerned with occupational conditions and Section B listing a few “other conditions”.
It is proposed that an obligation, analogous to those pertaining to notifiable diseases, be imposed upon all medical practitioners to provide relevant details to their local Medical Officers of Health whenever in their daily practice, they observe a case where FGM has been performed on patients who were born in New Zealand on or later than 1st January 1996 when the FGM relevant parts of the Crimes Act 1961 came into force.
The Society proposes therefore that The Crimes (Definition of Female Genetical Mutilation) Amendment Bill be amended to include an extra clause as below:
5 Notifiable Conditions
- FGM shall be added to the list of notifiable conditions in Schedule 2 Section B of the Health Act 1956, all four types of FGM being treated as separate conditions.
- For women born in New Zealand on or later than 1st January 1996 only, cases of FGM of all types must be reported by all health practitioners according to Clause 74 (1) (b) of Part 3 of the same Act for the purpose of gathering statistics on the incidence of FGM among such girls and women.
All statistics gathered for the Ministry or the Minister of Health will be available to the public upon request.
We thank you for your consideration of our proposal.