FGM & the NZ Law

FGM in New Zealand

Is FGM practiced in New Zealand?

There is no documented evidence that FGM is practiced in New Zealand. However, New Zealand has a growing number of refugees and migrants from countries that practice FGM, and many of these women have already undergone FGM. The main groups affected by FGM in New Zealand are Ethiopian, Somali, Egyptian, Eritrean, Sudanese and some Muslim Indonesian groups.

Is FGM legal in New Zealand?

In January 1996 the Government made the practice of FGM illegal under an amendment to The Crimes Act (section 204A) 1961. The Act states that it is illegal law to perform “any medical or surgical procedure or mutilation of the vagina or clitoris of any person” for reasons of “culture, religion, custom or practice”.
This means it is against the law to:

  • circumcise a woman, girl or female baby
  • remove or cut out any part of the female genital area
  • stitch up the female genital area
  • cut the clitoris or part of the clitoris
  • damage the female genital area in other ways

It is against the law to perform FGM even if the woman or girl wants it to be done.

What happens if someone performs FGM?

If someone performs FGM, they are breaking the law and may be imprisoned for up to seven years. The punishment occurs whether the person performs the procedure, helps, or gets someone else to perform FGM.

Is it illegal to send a child overseas for the procedure?

Yes, the law states that it is illegal to:

  • send or make any arrangement for a child to be sent out of New Zealand for FGM to be performed
  • assist or encourage any person in New Zealand to perform FGM on a New Zealand citizen or resident outside New Zealand
  • convince or encourage any other New Zealand citizen or resident to go outside New Zealand to have FGM performed.
Why is FGM illegal in New Zealand?

FGM is illegal in New Zealand because FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects inequality between the sexes, is a form of discrimination against women and is harmful to the health of women and girls. It is nearly always carried out on minors and violates a person’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.

New Zealand is also a signatory to the following International Instruments and conventions that encourage and oblige action against FGM:

  1. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 25).
  2. The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (Articles 2f, 5a,12).
  3. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (Articles 2, 19.2, 24.1, 37a, 24.3).