EndFGMToday: Mississippi Is Only State in the Deep South That Has Not Taken Action on an FGM Bill
It’s Time for Mississippi Legislators to Make Protecting Women and Girls from Female Genital Mutilation a Priority and Join 32 Other States
Washington, D.C.—Mississippi may have the distinction of being the state where the first heart and lung transplants were performed, the home to the largest river in the U.S., and the birthplace of Elvis Presley but it has another unfortunate distinction as well.
Mississippi is the only state in the Deep South that has not taken action to protect women and girls from female genital mutilation (FGM). This makes it one of the minority 18 states in the U.S. that does not have this crucial law in place.
According to the national EndFGMToday campaign, Mississippi legislators allowed Senate Bill 2472 to die in committee this past February. With the 2019 legislative session complete, lawmakers now have the distinction of missing a chance to protect their female residents from a cruel and barbaric practice.
“The state of Mississippi proudly boasts that it is ‘the Hospitality State,’ known for its friendly people and welcoming culture,” said internationally renowned attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore, who heads EndFGMToday. “However, child advocates are increasingly concerned that Mississippi is isolated as the lone southern state not to have an FGM criminal statute—or at least one in the works.
Mississippi is bordered by Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee, which all have strong FGM laws, and its other eastern neighbor, Alabama, expects to pass strong FGM legislation soon. As such, Mississippi, without any FGM criminalization laws, risks the dubious distinction and danger of being a lure for female genital mutilators. The ‘Hospitality State’ remains a standout in the South without the necessary protections for little girls from the barbaric procedure of FGM.”
Across the South, other states have taken or are taking action to criminalize FGM:
- Tennessee had measures in place to criminalize FGM but recently toughened its law. HB 1364 / SB 1366 rewrites the criminal offense of female genital mutilation and extends the statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions or civil actions for FGM.
- EndFGMToday has urged North Carolina to move forward with its bill. SB 9 passed the State Senate in March and now sits in a House committee. The bill would make performing FGM in North Carolina a Class C felony—with a 44- to 182-month prison sentence—and would also penalize those who consent to the procedure, such as a parent or guardian.
- South Carolina became the 32nd state to outlaw FGM when Gov. Henry McMaster signed H. 3973 into law May 16.
- Georgia has had an FGM criminalization law on its books since 2010.
- In Alabama, HB 421, a bill to criminalize the heinous act of FGM, was introduced last month in the House of Representatives and passed the Judiciary Committee earlier this month. A vote on the full House floor could happen any day. The proposed legislation would make performing or facilitating FGM on a female under the age of 19 a Class B felony.
- Florida outlawed FGM in 2007, classifying it as a felony in various degrees.
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.
“Like human trafficking, people travel to places where mutilators reside, especially to states that have not outlawed FGM,” Yore said. “This underground and covert network seeks out states where FGM is not a crime, so as to avoid prosecution and detection. Without an FGM law on the books, Mississippi stands out in the South, as an oasis for this vile practice. Mississippians are rightly proud of their ‘Hospitality State,’ but without an FGM law, they will be welcoming female genital mutilation.
“The Civil Rights Movement found its home in Mississippi,” Yore added. “Mississippi lawmakers and citizens should be especially concerned that the human right to be free of FGM is not enshrined in state law.”
Yore also noted that female genital mutilation is recognized by both the World Health Organization and the United Nations as a human rights violation perpetrated upon little girls and women. Over 200 million women worldwide have been subjected to this cruel practice, and over half a million girls women and girls are at risk of FGM right here in the United States, according to the CDC.