U.S. House of Representatives Passes Bill That Triples Penalties for FGM
International Child Advocate, Attorney and Head of #EndFGMToday Elizabeth Yore Says Remaining States Must Now Enact Their Own Laws
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. House of Representatives today took a unified, bipartisan stand against female genital mutilation (FGM) and unanimously voted in favor the Stopping Abusive Female Exploitation (SAFE) Act. The legislation triples the federal penalty for FGM from five to 15 years in prison and calls on states to implement reporting requirements for suspected genital mutilation.
The bill was introduced and championed by Rep. Dave Trott of Michigan, who has seen the ravages of FGM in his own state with the federal prosecution of a doctor who is charged with mutilating 7-year-old girls. An original bill co-sponsor was Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).
Attorney Elizabeth Yore, international child advocate and head of the EndFGMToday initiative, who has spent 30 years in legal child advocacy and previously served as Special Counsel at Harpo, Inc. as Oprah Winfrey’s child advocate, applauded the bipartisan effort to protect women and girls from FGM.
“End FGM Today is thankful to Rep. Dave Trott of Michigan for sponsoring and fighting for this bill,” said Yore, who also served as general counsel for both the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “Evident in the bipartisan effort is the fact that protecting little girls from the horrors of FGM is a universal issue. The House has recognized that FGM is an exponentially growing threat in the U.S., and we urge the remaining states that have not enacted their own anti-FGM laws to do so quickly. We look forward to swift passage in the Senate. We also call on the public to use the FBI’s FGM Hotline at (800) CALL-FBI or www.FBI.gov/FGM to help identify, apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators of this terrible crime, one that leaves physical and emotional scars for a lifetime.”
Shortly after the vote, Trott posted on Facebook: “Today, the U.S. House unanimously passed my legislation TRIPLING the federal penalty for female genital mutilation. This appalling and brutal practice has no place in Southeast Michigan, or the United States, and today we make it clear to Americans and the rest of the world that these heinous acts will not be tolerated.”
After the House Committee on Judiciary advanced the measure last month, Congressman Trott said, “…all those who commit these horrendous crimes against innocent children across the country must be held accountable for their unconscionable actions. We must protect our girls, and this legislation increasing the federal penalty is critical to eradicating this barbaric practice from our communities.”
A press release from Trott’s office also highlighted the fact that United States’ current five-year penalty for perpetrators of FGM is significantly weaker than other countries. For example, the penalty in the United Kingdom is up to 14 years imprisonment and in France up to 20 years imprisonment.
Although this hideous practice has been outlawed under federal law since 1996, only about half the states in the country have enacted their own laws. At least 59 countries around the world outlaw FGM.
Yore noted that the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 513,000 women and girls in the U.S. are at risk for FGM. And the number of potential FGM victims is likely vastly under-reported, she says. After all, the World Health Organization and the United Nations—which have declared FGM a violation of human rights—estimate that more than 200 million women and girls are subjected to this torture around the world.
Learn more at www.EndFGMToday.com and on social media at #EndFGMToday about FGM and efforts underway in the United States to stop it.