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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (7 December) . . Page.. 2825 ..

MR CONNOLLY (continuing):

I think we would all agree that that is a desirable practice. The reasons given by the Minister are that there needs to be a fairly extensive education program, otherwise this could have a counterproductive effect in certain non-English-speaking communities. The Minister notes that the Commonwealth Government is working to provide a national education program and, for that reason, he cannot give a commitment to enact the law within six months. I would accept that as a responsible and reasonable approach to take in the circumstances. For that reason, we would accept that unusual commencement clause, but I confidently hope that that would not become the norm.

MR MOORE (4.07): Mr Speaker, I am rather fortunate that in the last little while somebody suggested that I read, and I did read, a book called Nine Parts of Desire, by Geraldine Brooks, which provides some understanding of the cultural issues that are behind such things as female genital mutilation. That book makes a very powerful case that it is not religion, as some people mistakenly believe, that leads to female genital mutilation but, rather, cultural things that have been adopted in some parts of the world as part of religious practice. It is driven not by religion but by the cultural areas.

One of the things that concern me is not the fact that we are talking about a sentence of imprisonment for up to 15 years, which is an extraordinary sentence for this practice, and imprisonment for seven years for someone who actually takes what could be another person, but is most likely a child, out of the country in order to have this assault practised. It seems to me that it is very difficult in our cultural circumstances even to begin to comprehend how somebody could go about this sort of mutilation, but we do know that it is a widespread practice in certain parts of the world.

What had concerned me most when I read this Bill after Mr Humphries tabled it was that the original victim is likely to be a victim in the second round as well. What I mean by that is that it is a woman who herself has probably been through this process, is herself mutilated, who would be the person most likely to be charged with an offence under this Act and would invariably be the person who, although mutilated herself, is now also subject to imprisonment of 15 years or, in the lesser case, seven years - still a quite extraordinary prison term.

The other part, and the part that Mr Connolly referred to, was that it occurred to me, in discussion with a number of other people, that it would appear that the person most likely to be not included under this legislation would be the spouse, the male involved in the situation. My wife put it to me fairly succinctly - by the way, my wife had also read the book I referred to and can recommend it to members - when she said, "That would be typical. Once again, it will be the woman, who has been the victim in the first place, who will be blamed and will be the victim again, while the male who sets the cultural standards and plays an important role in maintaining, if you like, family discipline will be let off scot-free".

It was those circumstances that prompted me to give drafting instructions, and parliamentary counsel drew up an amendment for me, although the chief parliamentary counsel and the person drawing it up did draw my attention to some of the difficulties with this amendment. The intention of the amendment was to reverse the onus of proof

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