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Female genital mutilation in children presenting to Australian paediatricians
  1. Yvonne Zurynski1,2,
  2. Amy Phu1,2,
  3. Premala Sureshkumar1,2,
  4. Sarah Cherian3,4,
  5. Marie Deverell1,2,
  6. Elizabeth J Elliott1,2
  7. for Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit Female Genital Mutilation Study Steering Committee
  1. 1Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  2. 2Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3Refugee Health Service, Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  4. 4School of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yvonne Zurynski, The Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Locked Bag 4001, Westmead, Sydney, NSW 2145, Australia; yvonne.zurynski{at}


Objective The WHO reports that female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is an ancient cultural practice prevalent in many countries. FGM/C has been reported among women resident in Australia. Our paper provides the first description of FGM/C in Australian children.

Design Cross-sectional survey conducted in April–June 2014.

Setting Paediatricians and other child health specialists recruited through the Australian Paediatric Surveillance Unit were asked to report children aged <18 years with FGM/C seen in the last 5 years, and to provide data for demographics, FGM/C type, complications and referral for each case.

Participants Of 1311 eligible paediatricians/child health specialists, 1003 (76.5%) responded.

Results Twenty-three (2.3%) respondents had seen 59 children with FGM/C and provided detailed data for 31. Most (89.7%) were identified during refugee screening and were born in Africa. Three (10.3%) were born in Australia: two had FGM/C in Australia and one in Indonesia. All parents were born overseas, mainly Africa (98.1%). Ten children had WHO FGM/C type I, five type II, five type III and six type IV. Complications in eight children included recurrent genitourinary infections, menstrual, sexual, fertility and psychological problems. Nineteen children (82.6%) were referred to obstetrics/gynaecology: 16 (69.9%) to social work and 13 (56.5%) to child protection.

Conclusions This study confirms that FGM/C is seen in paediatric clinical practice within Australia. Paediatricians need cultural awareness, education and resources to help them identify children with FGM/C and/or at risk of FGM/C, to enable appropriate referral and counselling of children, families and communities to assist in the prevention of this practice.

  • Female Genital Mutilation
  • General Paediatrics

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  • Contributors EJE and YZ conceived and designed the study, wrote the grant application, contributed to survey design and data interpretation. PS designed the survey instrument, collected and cleaned the data. AP and MD performed statistical data analysis and drafted the Results section. SC contributed case data and assisted with data interpretation. All authors revised the manuscript, provided comments and agreed with the final submitted version.

  • Funding This study was funded by the Department of Health and Ageing (grant ID: DoHA/285/1213). EJE is supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (Practitioner Fellowship No. 1021480) and the APSU is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and the Australian Research Council.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee of the Sydney Children's Hospitals Network (Westmead), approval number LNR/13/SCHN/430.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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