Support for female circumcision, mutilation or genital cutting has dramatically dropped among the east African communities in Melbourne with the help of Victorian legislation that outlaws the practice.
According to a report by the University of Melbourne, women who went through genital cutting said they felt stigmatised by medical workers whenever they have medical checkups or give birth. The report said that about 35,000 people in Victoria were born in one of the countries in the Middle East and in sub-Saharan Africa where female genital cutting is considered a tradition.
Lead researcher Dr Cathy Vaughan said the African community members in Victoria were increasingly becoming aware of the risks involved. After talking to the African population in the northern suburbs of Carlton, Fitzroy and Collingwood, she reported that the practice is "decreasing."
Vaughan said the reason had been the influence of Australian laws. Female genital cutting is illegal in Victoria, including taking a female infant overseas to undergo genital mutilation. Health experts said there were no benefits to women's health and the procedure often causes women to experience long-term physical and psychological problems.
A report by the Age said the study was conducted in cooperation with the Royal Women's Hospital. Women with mutilated genitals can have the procedure reversed in the hospital's de-infibulation clinic.
The New South Wales Government had increased the penalty for female genital mutilation. The maximum penalty is now 21 years instead of seven, as the government makes it illegal to take a female out of the state to let her genitals be mutilated somewhere else.
The implementation of the new law will close the loophole which allowed a person to take advantage of it and take a child outside Australia to undergo female mutilation to escape punishment.
According to Community Services Minister Pru Goward, a person will be charged with female genital mutilation offences even if he or she is a doctor, a nurse or a relative buying a plane ticket. Anyone who is involved will be charged. Health Minister Jillian Skinner said it is usually the health professionals who notice and report cases of female genital mutilation. They are also responsible for providing long-term treatment to victims.