Female Genital Mutilation in Australia

17 January 2017

A new study shows that 59 girls, between 5 months and 18 years,  had female genital mutilation (FMG) since 2010.  "Most procedures were performed overseas and many girls had physical compications and psychological problems." said  Prof Elizabeth Elliott, Director of APSU at Kids Research Institute, consultant paediatrician at The Children's Hospital at Westmead and Professor of Child Health and Paediatrics at the Univarsity of Sydney.

Paediatricians and other child health specialists recruited through the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit (APSU) at Kids Research Institute were asked to report children aged under 18 years with FGM/C seen in the last 5 years, and to provide data for demographics,  FGM/C type, complications and referral for each case.

Of 1311 eligible paediatricians/child health specialists, 1003 (76.5%) responded.  Twenty-three (2.3%) respondents had seen 59 children with FGM/C and provided detailed data for 31. Most (89.7%) were identified during refugee screening and were born in Africa. Three (10.3%) were born inAustralia: two had FGM/C in Australia and one in Indonesia.

All parents were born overseas, mainly Africa (98.1%). Ten children had WHO FGM/C type I, five type II, five type III and six type IV. Complications in eight children included recurrent genitourinary infections, menstrual, sexual, fertility and psychological problems. Nineteen children (82.6%) were referred to obstetrics/gynaecology: 16 (69.9%) to social work and 13 (56.5%) to child protection.

The study authors concluded that paediatricians need cultural awareness, education and resources to help them identify children with FGM/C and/or at risk of FGM/C. This would enable appropriate referral and counselling of children, families and communities to assist in preventing this practice.

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