International Women’s Day Is a Perfect Time for States to Stand Against Female Genital Mutilation
EndFGMToday: 15 States Still Don’t Criminalize Female Genital Mutilation, But Many Have New Bills in the Works
March 2, 2020
Washington, D.C.—March 8 is International Women’s Day, a global observation to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, as well as to call for accelerating women’s equality.
What better day, asks the national EndFGMToday campaign, for states to stand up to the barbaric procedure of female genital mutilation (FGM)?
“Female genital mutilation is no longer an issue for other countries to address,” says internationally renowned attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore, who heads EndFGMToday. “Unfortunately, FGM has landed on the shores of America, and this brutal and unnecessary procedure leaves physical and emotional scars for a lifetime. Girls as young as 5 years old are subject to this heinous form of child abuse, and women in their 50s and 60s are still dealing with the side effects and traumatic memories today. Unbelievably, 15 states in the U.S. still don’t outlaw FGM, and that must change in 2020.”
Yore 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 alone.
Equality Now estimates that at least 59 countries have passed laws against FGM, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, Spain, Norway, Sweden and New Zealand. Of the 29 countries in Africa where FGM is traditionally practiced, 26 have laws prohibiting FGM. Among African nations with laws prohibiting FGM, penalties range from monetary fines to a minimum of three months to life in prison. Others continue to struggle to enforce legislation.
Shockingly, the United States is not among the nations that have outlawed FGM. A 1996 mandate did exist, but late last year, 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.
For this reason, Yore says, state laws criminalizing FGM are all the more crucial now. Several lawmakers are working toward another federal FGM law.
The majority of the 15 states without laws—Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming—returned to session in early 2020. In some of these states, bills have been introduced or are very close to the official introductory stage.