By Louisa Wall
It is not well known that there are many cross party interest groups in the New Zealand Parliament, some working on issues of public concern. In this article Louisa Wall MP (TINZ member and co-Chair of the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption) describes the cross party collaboration that occurred to craft a multi members bill. As a result Female Genital Mutilation is now a crime in New Zealand.
Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Act 2020
In 2019, the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians New Zealand Group (CWP NZ) worked together to create and introduce the Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Bill.
CWP NZ is a cross-party group of New Zealand women members of Parliament. In the 52nd Parliament, the co-chairs were Louisa Wall MP and former MP Jo Hayes. The group is a sub-group of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, within the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. CWP was originally created to increase female representation and gender considerations in Parliament. In 2019, it worked together to create an opportunity to pass the first multi-members bill in the New Zealand Parliament.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is the practise of removing, poking, pricking, or other forms of mutilating the external genitalia of females for non-medical reasons. CWP NZ co-chairs first met with members of the New Zealand Female Genital Mutilation Education Programme in 2011 to discuss FGM and how legislation, at the time, did not protect women from ceremonial FGM and therefore all forms of FGM in New Zealand. The community was very clear that all forms of FGM has to be ended and then presented to CWP in Wellington and asked us to work with them to amend the law.
CWP NZ members agreed that legislation needed to be strengthened to protect women and girls from all forms of FGM and drafted a bill that would do just that. The Deputy Speaker at the time, Hon Anne Tolley, who was also a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Bureau of Women Parliamentarians took the matter to the New Zealand Parliament Business Committee to seek permission to create a bill in the name of multiple women MPs. Each party nominated a representative and the Act is in the names of Jo Hayes MP (National), Priyanca Radhakrishnan MP (Labour), Golriz Ghahraman MP (Green), and Jenny Marcroft MP (New Zealand First).
Caption NZ members meet with members of the New Zealand FGM Education Programme in 2018
The bill passed its First Reading in the House on the 4th December as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, which follows the United Nations International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women on 25th November. It was then referred to the Health Select Committee for a deeper look into the bill and received public submissions on the bill. The bill then successfully passed through the Second Reading, Committee of the whole House, and Third Reading. The bill then was given Royal Assent and has become the Crimes (Definition of Female Genital Mutilation) Amendment Act 2020.
The Act amended the Crimes Act 1961 to update the definition of FGM to make all types of FGM illegal in New Zealand and insure that all women and girls are adequately protected from FGM. While most forms of FGM were banned in New Zealand in 1996, this amendment aligns the legislation with the World Health Organisation classifications of all types of FGM and international best practice recommendations.
FGM is one of the most important sexual and reproductive rights issues impacting women globally, with 200 million women and girls affected worldwide, and an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing the practice every year. While most forms of FGM were banned in New Zealand with the passing of the original Act, this amendment will align the legislation with standard World Health Organisation (WHO) classifications of types of FGM and international best practice recommendations.