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Dutch to extend ban on genital mutilation to operations carried out abroad

The Dutch government plans to extend its ban on female circumcision to include families who send their daughters abroad to undergo the procedure.

Martin van Rijn: Ban on circumcision has had a deterrent effect.Between 40 and 50 girls, most of them under the age of 10, are thought to be at risk of female genital mutilation each year, usually during visits to their parents’ home country. Somalis and Egyptians account for 80% of the high-risk group.

The research by the Pharos institute suggests the Netherlands has eliminated the practice within its borders since it introduced a specific law in 1993. Prison sentences of up to 12 years can be imposed on anyone who carries out, arranges or pays for an operation.

A proposed law is waiting to go before the Upper House which would extend the scope of the law to cover anyone living in the Netherlands who arranges to have the procedure carried out overseas.

The number of circumcised women living in the Netherlands is estimated at 30,000, most of whom have had the procedure done before they arrive. Genital mutilation exposes women to a high risk of bladder infections as well as psychological problems brought on by the trauma of the operation.

Junior health minister Martin van Rijn (picturedtold NOS radio the combination of strong penalties and better public information had had a deterrent effect.

“Education and especially the fact that we have severe penalties in the Netherlands have a strong preventive effect, and the research has concluded that there is no indication that circumcisions are being carried out in the Netherlands,” he said.

“There is a proposed law with the Upper House that will make circumcision illegal even if it takes place abroad, which means that the preventive effect that we have in the Netherlands can be extended and when the parents return they can be held to account by a judge for child abuse.”