Celebrating Victory for Women and Girls in 2019
EndFGMToday Applauds 8 States That Passed Anti-FGM Laws This Year
December 23, 2019
Washington, D.C.—The year 2019 was a tremendous milestone for those advocating on behalf of women and girls at risk for the horrific crime of female genital mutilation (FGM). Over a year ago, a Michigan judge ruled that the federal FGM law was unconstitutional, and ever since, the national EndFGMToday initiative has called on states to enact their own laws to protect their women and girls from this heinous practice.
To date, 35 states have done just that—eight in the past year alone.
“For the more than 513,000 girls and women at risk of FGM in the U.S., 2019 was a banner year,” said internationally renowned attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore, who heads EndFGMToday. “In eight states, legislators stepped up to say there was no room for the terrible practice of FGM in their states. FGM leaves victims with lifelong consequences, causes multiple physical complications and leaves emotional scars for years. Now, thanks to the efforts to lawmakers in eight states, thousands more women and girls are protected from the horrors of FGM.”
The first to kick off the legislative action in 2019 was Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich signed his state’s anti-FGM legislation, SB214, on Jan. 3. The Ohio House of Representatives had voted in favor of a bill to outlaw FGM last December, and the Ohio Senate unanimously agreed, as the Buckeye State became the 28th to criminalize this practice.
Then in March, three more states stepped up in an exciting week for anti-FGM progress.
On March 20, Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed his state’s FGM law after lawmakers passed House Bill 114, which amended the Idaho code that FGM of a child is a felony. The law also changed the limitations to three years after reporting, unlike the usual five-year statute of limitations for felonies, due to the fact that most FGM survivors are young and may not report the crime until much later in life.
Then on March 26, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed SB 318 into law, which 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. The act also provides strong measures aimed at FGM prevention.
A day later on March 27, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert followed suit in signing HB430, which takes several steps toward ending FGM in Utah. State Rep. Ken Ivory, who sponsored the bill, said he was “shocked” to learn that about 1,800 women and girls were at risk for FGM in Utah or have already undergone the procedure.
On May 1, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed SF346 to ban FGM in the Hawkeye State. The law classifies FGM as a Class D felony and also acknowledges that a person who knowingly transports a minor within or outside the state for the purpose of performing FGM also commits a felony.
South Carolina became the 33rd state to criminalize FGM when Gov. Henry McMaster signed H. 3973 into law on May 16. The bill, introduced by Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, moved quickly through the legislative process—evidence that state lawmakers were committed to protecting women and girls in South Carolina from this cruel practice that is a form of child abuse.
The Keystone State followed a month later, when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed House Bill 315 into law on June 28, making FGM first-degree felony in the state. Several lawmakers championed the bill, including Reps. Tom Murt and Donna Bullock and Congressman Scott Perry. The bill had passed the Pennsylvania House in April and the Senate in June.
Many months after its bill was introduced, North Carolina crossed the finish line with FGM legislation on Aug. 1, when Gov. Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 9 into law. After going into effect Oct. 1, the new law makes the practice of FGM a Class C felony, punishable by a 44- to 182-month prison sentence.
“The EndFGMToday initiative applauds these eight states for working hard to pass tough FGM criminalization laws in 2019,” Yore added. “Perpetrators now know they cannot get away with the horrific crime of FGM simply by working in their covert networks, often under the cover of darkness, in these states. However, even with much progress, there is still much work left to do, as 15 states still do not protect girls from this heinous act. It’s imperative that changes in 2020.”
These 15 states—Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming—are heading into 2020 with no laws to protect their female residents from the brutal and unnecessary practice of FGM.
Yore also noted that female genital mutilation is recognized by both the World Health Organization and the United Nations as a human rights violation. Additionally, over 200 million women worldwide have been subjected to this cruel practice, and the CDC estimates that more than 500,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation in the United States.