It's not known to what extent female genital mutilation is practised in Australia, but the federal government's stance is clear.

"FGM is illegal," Health Minister Tanya Plibersek told parliament.

"It has no place in Australia, it is a violation of the human rights of girls and women, it is a crime and it will be not be excused by culture."

Ms Plibersek marked International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM on Wednesday by announcing a national summit to tackle the practice.

In April, community, health and legal experts will discuss ways of stamping out FGM both here and abroad.

The government plans to find out how many migrant women in Australia have suffered FGM, a figure believed to be in the tens of thousands.

This is important as the the number of new arrivals from countries with a high prevalence of FGM has increased in recent decades, Ms Plibersek said.

Many of these women will require specialised medical care in the future as the procedure can lead to chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, psychological trauma and complications in childbirth.

Though FGM has no health benefit, it's common in countries countries in north, eastern and western Africa, as well as parts of Asia and the Middle East.

It's estimated it affects about 140 million women worldwide, with a further three million girls, mostly under 15, at risk of the procedure each year.

Anybody who performs FGM, or removes a child for that purpose, could face a maximum 21 years jail in Australia.

But where cultural practices are deeply embedded in communities, laws can be limited in bringing about change, Ms Plibersek said.

The government will shortly announced half a million dollars in funding to organisations building awareness through education to drive attitudinal change about the practice.


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