Mississippi and Alabama—Only States in South That Have Not Taken Action on Anti-FGM Laws
EndFGMToday: It’s Time for Mississippi and Alabama to Join 33 Other States to Protect Women and Girls from Female Genital Mutilation
WASHINGTON, D.C.—As more and more states are passing anti-female genital mutilation legislation—including the latest, Pennsylvania, which once signed by the governor, will be the 33rd state to outlaw the heinous practice—two states in the South have yet to protect their women and girls from the physical and emotional scars of FGM.
In Mississippi, according to the national EndFGMToday campaign, legislators allowed Senate Bill 2472 to die in committee this past February. With the 2019 legislative session complete, lawmakers lost their chance this year to protect their female residents from a cruel and barbaric practice.
Then in Alabama, the House of Representatives adjourned early without taking action on HB 421, a bill to criminalize FGM. The measure was introduced in April in the House and passed the Judiciary Committee in May. The proposed legislation would make performing or facilitating FGM on a female under the age of 19 a Class B felony.
“The South is 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 and Alabama are isolated as the lone southern states not to have an FGM criminal statute to protect women and girls.
“Mississippi and Alabama’s Southern neighbors, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and the Carolinas, either have strong FGM laws in place or are working to enact them,” she added. “As such, Mississippi and Alabama risk the dubious distinction and danger of being a lure for female genital mutilators.”
Across the South, other states have taken or are taking action to criminalize FGM:
- Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed SB 318, or Act 556, into law this spring.
- Georgia has had an FGM criminalization law on its books since 2010.
- Florida outlawed FGM in 2007, classifying it as a felony in various degrees.
- Louisiana outlawed FGM in 2012, then made it a predicate crime under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act in 2013 and further strengthened the law in 2018.
- EndFGMToday has urged North Carolina to move forward with its bill. SB 9 passed the State Senate in March and sits in a House committee. The current portion of the legislative session ended June 30.
- South Carolina became the 32nd state to outlaw FGM when Gov. Henry McMaster signed H. 3973 into law May 16.
- 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 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.
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 women and girls are at risk of FGM right here in the United States, according to the CDC.