EndFGMToday Urges Pennsylvania Lawmakers to Make Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Law a Priority
The Keystone State Ranks 11th for Women and Girls at Risk for FGM
Washington, D.C.—The national EndFGMToday campaign is urging Pennsylvania lawmakers to follow the lead of Congressman Scott Perry and others who are communicating the need for legislation to criminalize female genital mutilation in the Keystone State.
Last month, Perry submitted a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf and Hon. Lisa Baker, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, calling for the much-needed law to protect women and girls in the state from this heinous practice that leaves physical and emotional scars for a lifetime.
Elizabeth Yore, an internationally renowned attorney and child welfare advocate who heads EndFGMToday, has worked closely with many state lawmakers to enact FGM legislation. Currently, 32 states have FGM criminalization laws on their books, but women and girls are unprotected from FGM in 18 states, including Pennsylvania.
“EndFGMToday is immensely encouraged by Congressman Perry’s strong stance to protect girls at risk for FGM in Pennsylvania,” Yore said. “FGM is child abuse. In fact, the CDC estimates that 513,000 girls are at risk of FGM in the United States, and Pennsylvania ranks 11th for FGM risk among all states. This is unacceptable for the Keystone State—known for the Liberty Bell and the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. How, then, is Pennsylvania among the 18 states that have not criminalized the brutal procedure of female genital mutilation?”
In his letter, Perry noted that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation to ban the practice. Perry’s efforts came in the wake of the recent U.S. Department of Justice decision not to appeal a court decision striking down the federal ban on FGM.
“Now’s the time to stand up for the voiceless, and criminalize the horrific practice of Female Genital Mutilation once and for all,” Perry said in a statement. “Given the Department of Justice’s decision, both the federal government and each state must work within their Constitutional jurisdiction to protect women and young girls at risk for FGM/C. It’s imperative that the State Senate take up proposals to stop the unconscionable and reprehensible practice of FGM/C.”
House Bill 315 would classify FGM as a felony in the first degree in Pennsylvania. The bill is currently with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, more than 19,000 women and girls in Pennsylvania are at risk for FGM, ranking it 11th in the nation, Yore noted. Furthermore, the PRB found that the Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA/NJ/DE; Harrisburg-Carlisle; and Pittsburgh regions of Pennsylvania are also top metropolitan areas in the nation for FGM risk.
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 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.