Upcoming Vote to Ban FGM Could Save Thousands of Girls from Forced Violent Trauma
#EndFGMToday Urges Alabama and Mississippi Legislators To Join Rest of Deep South in Criminalizing Female Genital Mutilation
August 10, 2020
Washington, D.C. — For too long portions of the United States have neglected the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM), but two of the 12 states that lack laws criminalizing the vile practice could soon vote to protect their women and young girls.
When legislative sessions resume again in January 2021, Alabama and Mississippi will have a chance to vote on legislation that prohibits FGM. More than half a million women and girls are at risk of FGM in the United States, and nearly 2,000 of them are in Alabama and Mississippi alone.
“That data translates into real children at perilous risk to the trauma and damage of female genital mutilation — and FGM truly is a form of child abuse,” says internationally renowned attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore, who heads EndFGMToday. “EndFGMToday urges the Alabama and Mississippi legislatures to move forward to help protect little girls from this painful and barbaric procedure whose physical and emotional scars last a lifetime.”
Both state legislatures were moving forward with laws banning the human rights violation, but when COVID-19 hit, the legislative process was delayed.
States are responsible to create laws to prohibit this practice after a federal ban was struck down as unconstitutional in 2018 by a district court judge. The judge believed it was the responsibility of the states to mandate this prohibition, but without the federal ban, FGM is now legal in some American states.
“Currently, 12 states in America do not have laws to prohibit female genital mutilation — and that is 12 states too many,” Yore said. “Essentially, this means that a quarter of our states are giving a legal pass to those who carry out and permit this heinous, brutal and unnecessary procedure on little girls as young as the age of 5.”
While some states have delayed passing legislation, many states have passed laws criminalizing FGM, including Florida all other states in the Deep South.
“Mississippi and Alabama’s Southern neighbors — Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and the Carolinas—all have FGM laws in place,” Yore wrote in an op-ed published by the Alabama Political Reporter in 2019. “As such, Mississippi and Alabama risk the dubious distinction and danger of being a lure for female genital mutilators. As soon as the legislative sessions begin again, FGM laws in Mississippi and Alabama must be a priority.”
FGM has impacted over 200 million girls around the world in more than 30 countries, primarily in Africa, as well as in the Middle East and Asia. Without federal U.S. legislation, each state must pass its own legislation to protect the 513,000 girls and women in The Centers for Disease Control’s estimate of at-risk females in the United States.