Child Advocate Submits Statement for New Hampshire Hearing Today on New FGM Bill
Hearing on Wednesday Afternoon Will Educate Lawmakers About Horrors of Female Genital Mutilation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee of the New Hampshire House of Representatives will hold a hearing this afternoon regarding House Bill 1739-FN, which will prohibit female genital mutilation (FGM) in the state.
For the hearing, Elizabeth Yore, international child advocate and head of the #EndFGMToday initiative, submitted a written statement in support of the bill, which also amends New Hampshire law regarding “sexual assault and related offenses” and adds FGM to the list of class A felonies. Read more about New Hampshire statutes on sexual assault and related offenses here and the text of the bill here.
Yore said today’s hearing—set for 1:20 p.m. EST Jan. 17—is critical and an opportunity of great importance for the people and children of New Hampshire.
“I urge your serious attention and enthusiastic support of this legislation,” Yore said in her statement. “At a time in our history, when state laws address domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking, the absence of a law criminalizing female genital mutilation is unconscionable. … Little girls deserve this protection. Female genital mutilation cannot be countenanced or ignored with a wink and a nod by interest groups that should be shouting from the rooftops to make it a felony. Twenty-six states have recognized the need to criminalize this barbaric practice. It’s time for New Hampshire to step up.
“Make no mistake that if New Hampshire fails to pass this legislation to protect little girls from FGM, the state will be known as a safe harbor for mutilators,” she continued. “Failure to criminalize this barbarity in New Hampshire dehumanizes the progress and status of this state. New Hampshire’s little girls deserve legal protection from the tyranny of genital mutilation.”
HB 1739 was introduced for the current legislative session by a bipartisan group of legislators and was originally filed by Rep. Victoria Sullivan (R-Manchester) and the late Rep. Chip Rice (D-Concord), among others. The legislation would make the practice of FGM a crime if performed on a minor. It also allows the parent or person legally responsible for a minor to be charged under New Hampshire statutes. The bill does not allow a defense to prosecution to be a “matter of custom, ritual or religious practice.”
Yore notes that the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 513,000 women and girls in the U.S. are at risk for this brutal procedure. And the number of potential FGM victims is likely vastly unreported, she said. Despite the fact that the World Health Organization and the United Nations declared FGM a violation of human rights, more than 200 million women and girls are subjected to this torture around the world.
Yore has spent the past 30 years of a legal career dedicated to child protection, specializing in missing and abducted children as the General Counsel of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, then as General Counsel of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services working to ensure that state child welfare policies and criminal laws are enforced and fashioned for the benefit of abused and neglected children in the foster care system. She also served as Oprah Winfrey’s Special Counsel and Child Advocate for her Harpo Production Company, which spearheaded the international child sex abuse investigation at the South Africa Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
Learn more at www.EndFGMToday.com and on social media at #EndFGMToday.