16 States in America Still Don’t Protect Women and Girls from Female Genital Mutilation
While 34 States Have Enacted FGM Laws, EndFGMToday Says Remaining States Must Make Criminalization a Priority in 2019 and 2020
Washington, D.C.—The national EndFGMToday campaign has been exceedingly encouraged by the recent run of states that have criminalized the barbaric procedure of female genital mutilation (FGM), which is inflicted on girls as young as 5 years old.
“The fact that 34 states now have FGM criminalization laws in their books is incredible,” said internationally renowned attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore, who heads EndFGMToday. “These recently passed laws are a testament to the fact that legislators realize FGM has no place in their states. Female genital mutilation has no place in America—or anywhere else in the world. Mutilating little girls defies all standards of humanity and is a hideous violation of human rights—and the United Nations and World Health Organization have made this declaration. Right here in the U.S., over half a million girls are at risk for the brutal and unnecessary procedure. We are immensely thankful to legislators and governors in Pennsylvania, Iowa, South Carolina, Arkansas, Idaho and Utah who have recently taken bold and decisive steps to protect girls from this horrible practice that leaves both physical and emotional scars for a lifetime.”
The states without FGM laws in place are: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.
Pennsylvania is the latest state to outlaw female genital mutilation, when Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 315 into law on June 28. FGM is now a first-degree felony in the Keystone State, and the measure was backed by Reps. Tom Murt and Donna Bullock, as well as Congressman Scott Perry.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 346 into law on May 1. The bill classifies FGM as a felony and also calls for education in the state about the health risks of and prohibition and penalties for FGM. The University of Iowa hospitals and clinics will also develop educational programming, “including protocols for physicians to provide safe health care and treatment to women who are victims of female genital mutilation.”
Also in May, South Carolina criminalized FGM when Gov. Henry McMaster signed H. 3973 into law. The bill was championed by Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford and moved quickly through the legislative process.
In March, three states enacted anti-FGM laws into their books:
- In Idaho, lawmakers passed House Bill 114, which amends the Idaho code that female genital mutilation of a child shall be a felony. The measure was sponsored by Rep. Priscilla Giddings, Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy and Sen. Mary Souza.
- Utah legislators passed HB430, co-sponsored by Rep. Ken Ivory and Sen. Luz Escamilla, which takes several steps toward ending FGM, including: making surgery for or facilitating female genital mutilation a felony; providing that a medical professional who practices FGM will lose the ability to practice permanently; declaring that FGM is a form of child abuse; allowing a person subject to FGM to bring a civil action; and requiring the Department of Health to create an education program to alert the community to the health risks and emotional trauma of FGM.
- In Arkansas, SB 318, or Act 556, sponsored by Sen. Breanne Davis and Rep. Robin Lundstrum, prohibits unlawful female genital mutilation of a minor; creates awareness programs concerning and statistical tracking of unlawful FGM; and declares a national emergency concerning FGM in the state. Act 556 also provides strong measures aimed at FGM prevention.
EndFGMToday has asserted many times that state laws criminalizing FGM are all the more crucial now, after a Michigan judge ruled that the federal FGM law was unconstitutional. In the process, serious charges against three alleged FGM perpetrators awaiting trial in Detroit were dismissed. The U.S. government has declined to appeal the decision.
Yore also noted that over 200 million women worldwide have been subjected to this cruel practice, and the CDC estimates that 513,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation in the United States.