Female genital cosmetic surgery

How female genital mutilation/cutting legislation applies to FGCS

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM/C as ‘all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’. It is generally performed on children or adolescents who are not able to provide informed consent. There are no known health benefits and it is known to be harmful to girls and women in many ways.47

All Australian states and territories have enacted legislation banning FGM/C and a variety of health and educational activities are in place to promote health and support cultural change required to eliminate its practice. Some people from countries that have traditionally practised FGM/C regard the selective application of the legislation to FGM/C but not FGCS, both of which could be considered to be culturally determined, to be discriminatory and unfair.48

There is some debate about whether FGCS is covered by legal definitions of FGM/C and, therefore, illegal under existing regulations. The adequacy of outcome data considered is central to informed consent for FGCS, as for all medical procedures.49

According to medical defence organisation, Avant:

‘purely cosmetic procedures may not trigger the exceptions under each Act, particularly in NSW and VIC where the procedure must be necessary for the health of the person. However Acts do not define the words ‘necessary’ and ‘health’. Legal concern is heightened given the fact that the patient’s consent is not a defence.’49,50

The Australian Government’s Review of Australia’s Female Genital Mutilation legal framework – Final report is a valuable source of further information.

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