There were concerns the parents wanted to take their young daughter abroad for the practice, which is illegal in all states and territories of Australia.
The family, not named, was denied permission to leave Australia with their young daughter after New South Wales police reportedly covertly recorded a conversation in the family.
In it, family members appeared to suggest the girl was about to be taken abroad for female genital mutilation, or FGM.
The parents, both born overseas, reportedly arrived in Australia 10 years ago.
They had been disputing a travel ban placed on them since 2014, after the birth of their second child.
They returned to court on the last day of July seeking permission to travel abroad for a family wedding.
The husband and wife reportedly have denied the claims from the translated transcript of the recorded conversation, saying they were talking about a friend’s daughter.
And the Department of Family and Community Services, or FACS, has told SBS in a statement it actually approved of the family making the trip.
“The Department sought a Family Law Watch List order (travel ban) in relation to this family in November 2014 to protect the child from the risk of being taken overseas and being subject to female genital mutilation. Since that time, FACS have been working with the family in an attempt to address this risk. In July 2017, FACS conducted a further risk assessment and concluded that the risk of the parents subjecting their daughter to female genital mutilation was now low and there was no danger of this occurring.”
The statement further outlines FACS’ views on the travel ban.
“In deciding to support the family’s request for the court to lift the travel ban, FACS also considered the decision of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions not to prosecute the parents in relation to female genital mutilation. Ultimately, however, the court refused the application to have the Family Law Watch List order discharged. So the travel ban remains in place.”
In March last year, Australia’s courts recorded their first criminal prosecution for female genital mutilation.
Three people — a retired nurse, a mother of two girls and a Dawoodi Bohra community leader — were each sentenced to a maximum 15 months in prison.
Associate Professor Yvonne Zurynski, is director of research at the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit at the University of Sydney and the Childrens’ Hospital in suburban Westmead.
She says FGM is recognised as a form of child abuse under the law and it is also illegal to take children outside Australia to have it done.
She cites a national survey of paediatricians this year showing 59 girls between ages five months and 18 years underwent female genital mutilation in the four years to 2014.
But Dr Zurynski says more data collection is needed.
“We surveyed paediatricians across Australia. But, of course, not every child with FGM is going to present to a paediatrician, so there may be other cases where children are seen by general practitioners or other medical professionals. And we simply don’t know how many children in Australia have undergone FGM.”
New South Wales police have issued a statement saying any offenders could face more than 20 years in prison.
“Female circumcision, more commonly known as female genital mutilation, is a crime in New South Wales. The State Crime Command’s Sex Crimes Squad has detectives specially trained in the cultural and religious sensitivities of the issue to investigate reports of female genital mutilation. A person can also be charged if they aid, abet, counsel, or procure a person to perform any of those acts on another person. This includes arranging to travel overseas for the procedure. The maximum penalty for this offence is 21 years imprisonment.”
If you are concerned someone you know is at risk of FGM, report it immediately to the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111.