Vermont Has Outlawed Female Genital Mutilation—Where is Massachusetts’ Law?
#EndFGMToday Calls on Final 12 States to Criminalize Cruel Practice of FGM and Protect Their Female Residents from Lifelong Trauma
Washington, D.C.—Along with other groups and impassioned advocates, the national EndFGMToday campaign has repeatedly called on Massachusetts lawmakers to pass a law that would punish perpetrators of female genital mutilation (FGM).
This unnecessary and brutal procedure that leaves both physical and emotional scars for a lifetime is still not outlawed in Massachusetts, and efforts to pass a measure have languished over many years—even before the COVID-19 crisis shut down state legislatures—says EndFGMToday leader, international attorney and child advocate Elizabeth Yore.
“Massachusetts’ northern neighbor, Vermont, took the decisive action to outlaw FGM in late February of this year, when Gov. Phil Scott signed H.83 into law,” Yore said. “And New Hampshire also enacted a law in July 2018, when Gov. Chris Sununu signed HB1739. In fact, in New Hampshire, lawmakers heard from one of our partners, Kadi Doumbia, one of the millions of survivors around the world who endured the physical and emotional scars of FGM.
“Although the Population Reference Bureau ranks Massachusetts in the top-quarter tier of states at risk of female genital mutilation, with an estimated 14,200 women and girls in danger of this practice,” Yore continued, “Massachusetts has thus far failed to pass legislation to criminalize FGM—2020 must be the year the Bay State outlaws FGM forever.”
The most current effort in Massachusetts is House Bill 4606, presented by state Reps. Natalie M. Higgins and Jay D. Livingstone. The measure would establish criminal penalties for those committing FGM of imprisonment for up to five years and a fine of up to $10,000 and allow for civil lawsuits by victims up to 10 years after the incident. Likewise, Senate Bill 834 has been introduced by Sen. Joseph A. Boncore. Both bills have significant numbers of co-sponsors.
“If Susan B. Anthony, one of America’s most famous female activists, who was born in Adams, Massachusetts, looked at her home state’s legislative history in this crucial area, it would be fair to say she would be shocked and deeply disappointed that Massachusetts still has not criminalized female genital mutilation,” Yore added. “She would not be able to fathom what could possibly prevent the passage of legislation to punish a vicious and barbaric practice of mutilating the genitals of innocent little Massachusetts girls.”
Massachusetts residents have also taken action in the fight against FGM by starting a Change.org petition, which now has over 330,000 signatures.
EndFGMToday has asserted many times that state laws criminalizing FGM are all the more crucial now, after a Michigan judge ruled in late 2018 that the federal FGM law was unconstitutional. In the process, serious charges against three alleged FGM perpetrators awaiting trial in Detroit were dismissed.
Besides Massachusetts, 11 additional states—Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico and Washington—also have no laws to protect their female residents from FGM.
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.