Lawmakers Step Up to Introduce New Federal Female Genital Mutilation Legislation
EndFGMToday Praises Efforts to Again Ban FGM Nationally
Washington, D.C.—After a Michigan judge ruled late last year that the federal female genital mutilation (FGM) law was unconstitutional, 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—several in the past year alone. Now, committed lawmakers have introduced new federal legislation that aims to outlaw the terrible procedure on a national level.
Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania have introduced companion bills that would criminalize female genital mutilation nationwide. H.R. 3583, the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2019, and S. 2017 were both introduced this summer with the goal of rectifying the shortcomings in the previous federal law that led to the Michigan judge’s decision.
The newly proposed legislation would again ban FGM on girls under 18 and specifies on laws governing interstate commerce, which Congress has jurisdiction over, noted internationally renowned attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore, who heads EndFGMToday.
“This legislation is critically important because 15 states still do not have criminal laws banning FGM,” Yore said. “Congress needs to pass this federal legislation to protect the more than 513,000 girls and women at risk of FGM in the U.S. FGM is often seen in the United States as a problem that doesn’t happen here. But this practice occurs all over the world and is happening right here on American soil as well. FGM leaves victims with lifelong consequences and causes multiple physical complications. Initially, a victim can suffer from shock, infection, blood loss and sometimes death. Most survivors suffer from frequent urinary tract infections, difficulty in childbirth, infertility, chronic pain, painful menstruation and intercourse and genital sores—many physical complications that a survivor must suffer with in silence.”
Yore added that women and girls are not just impacted physically, but many also suffer the emotional impact of this trauma. Because FGM is regularly performed in a non-sterile environment without any form of pain control, it is often one of the most traumatic events victims will ever experience. Women and girls are left to deal with anxiety, depression, frequent nightmares, flashbacks and post-traumatic stress.
“All these complications are worsened by the fact that communities are unaware of what FGM is and are not educated on how to help someone who has endured FGM,” Yore said. “Survivors need advocates, such as U.S. legislators, to speak out against this barbarism. Therefore, the urgency of passing federal FGM legislation cannot be overstated. Answering to the American people is the sworn duty of our public servants—our legislators—who work for the people. Sen. Blackburn and Congressman Perry understand the importance of criminalizing this appalling practice.”
Additionally, the federal or Empower Our Girls Act, also introduced by Perry, adds FGM to seven Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant programs, allowing FGM victims to receive assistance. According to Yore, Blackburn’s home state of Tennessee has some of the strongest FGM laws in the nation.
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.