Three More States Step Up: 31 States Now Outlaw Female Genital Mutilation
Utah, Arkansas and Idaho Recently Passed Laws to Criminalize FGM, But 19 States Still Don’t Have Measures in Place—Even More Crucial to Protect Girls After Federal Ban Was Struck Down
Washington, D.C.—Three more states have laws on their books to criminalize the horrific and cruel practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), with lawmakers working diligently to protect women and girls in their states.
The national EndFGMToday campaign is applauding legislators in these states, as Idaho Gov. Brad Little, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson recently signed into law anti-FGM bills. Thirty-one states now have measures criminalizing FGM.
“The mutilation of little girls’ genitals defies all standards of humanity and cries out as a hideous violation of human rights, according to the United Nations and World Health Organization,” said internationally renowned attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore, who heads EndFGMToday. “The CDC estimates that 513,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation in the United States. Legislators in Idaho, Utah and Arkansas have realized this fact in making FGM a crime. Thirty-one states now have anti-FGM laws on their books, but 19 must still enact laws to protect women and girls from this heinous act.”
In Idaho, lawmakers passed House Bill 114, which amends the Idaho code that female genital mutilation of a child shall be a felony. The measure was sponsored by Rep. Priscilla Giddings, Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy and Sen. Mary Souza.
According to the Idaho State Journal, “HB 114 also changes the statute of limitations to three years after it’s reported, unlike the usual five-year statute of limitations for felonies,” due to the fact that most FGM survivors are young and may not report the crime until much later in life.
“Giddings and I really had some wonderful conversations about how important this was to both of us to make sure that the women reach a point in their life where they feel they can tell and that the clock doesn’t start ticking until they go to law enforcement and take that step,” Nilsson Troy said.
Utah legislators in “The Beehive State” also passed HB430, which takes several steps toward ending FGM in Utah, including: making surgery for or facilitating female genital mutilation a felony; providing that a medical professional who practices female genital mutilation shall lose the ability to practice permanently; declaring that female genital mutilation is a form of child abuse for reporting requirements; allowing a person subject to female genital mutilation to bring a civil action; and requiring the Department of Health to create an education program to alert the community to the health risks and emotional trauma of female genital mutilation.
Utah State Rep. Ken Ivory, who sponsored the bill, told KUTV he was “shocked” to learn that about 1,800 women and girls were at risk for FGM in Utah or have already undergone the procedure. “We had no idea this was happening in our own backyard,” he said.
In Arkansas, SB 318, or Act 556, sponsored by Sen. Breanne Davis and Rep. Robin Lundstrum, prohibits unlawful female genital mutilation of a minor; creates awareness programs concerning and statistical tracking of unlawful FGM; and declares a national emergency concerning FGM in the state. FGM in Arkansas is listed as a crime in the state’s child maltreatment code, according to the AHA Foundation. Act 556 also provides strong measures aimed at FGM prevention.
“As someone who is passionate about defending children, when I learned that girls in Arkansas are at risk of this painful and harmful practice, it was clear to me that we must immediately act to ensure that not a single girl lacks adequate protections in our state,” Davis said in a statement reported by Fox16 in Arkansas.
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, according to WHO, over 200 million women worldwide have been subjected to the cruel practice of female genital mutilation.