June 3, 2011
Concerns were voiced that there could be significant loopholes in a legislative measure to outlaw and punish the practice of female genital mutilation.
Responding, Minister for Health and Children James Reilly said he was willing to consider tightening some of the provisions in the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Bill, which passed second stage.
Members on all sides praised Ivana Bacik (Lab) for her role in promoting the proposed legislation.
Dr Reilly said he believed that female genital mutilation was a gross violation of women’s human rights, and the Bill before the House was the first step in ensuring that this practice did not take hold in this country. He said mutilation had no health benefits. The message was being sent out loud and clear that it would not be tolerated in Ireland.
There were firm indications from those working with practising communities that the most significant risk of mutilation being carried out on young girls living in Ireland arose during visits to countries where it was commonly practised, he said.
The Bill aimed to address this risk by creating an offence of removing a girl or woman from the State for the purpose of female genital mutilation and by introducing an extra-territorial element to its provisions, he said.
Various exemptions to the offence were aimed at avoiding criminalisation of surgical operations required for the protection of the physical or mental health of a girl or woman, Dr Reilly added.
Dr Reilly said it had been contended that mental health issues could be used as a ruse or a legal loophole.
The exemption in this case referred to the possible need for surgery in relation to gender reassignment, inter-sex conditions or congenital malformations, Dr Reilly said.