Washington State Must Cross Finish Line in 2020 on Tough Female Genital Mutilation Law
#EndFGMToday Points to State Petition Signed by Nearly 88,000
November 18, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Washington State is one of the 15 across the country yet to pass laws to criminalize the barbaric procedure female genital mutilation (FGM).
While great strides have been made to outlaw FGM in all 50 states, the national #EndFGMToday initiative says that even one state failing to protect women and girls from this heinous practice is a tragedy—and unnecessary, as lawmakers have the ability to put a stop to FGM in their states.
Washington lawmakers introduced two bills for consideration early last year: Senate Bill 5257 and House Bill 2000. EndFGMToday leader Elizabeth Yore, an international child advocate and attorney, says legislators must cross the finish line with a strong law in 2020.
“Strong FGM bills include five components,” Yore said. “These include prosecution for a practitioner, medical or otherwise, who carries out FGM; prosecution for parents or guardians who allow children to be subjected to FGM; prosecution for those who aid in facilitating FGM; provisions against ‘vacation cutting,’ or transporting girls to other countries or states for mutilation purposes; and provisions for education and outreach purposes. We hope Washington and the other 14 states without FGM laws not only act on bills in 2020, but ensure these measures are the toughest they can be in order to not only hold mutilators accountable but protect girls and women from future trauma and abuse.”
To help the efforts in Washington, one man has introduced a petition to the Washington State Senate, State House and Gov. Jay Inslee on Change.org.
“According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 513,000 women and girls have undergone or are at risk of FGM in the United States,” writes petition creator Abid Saifee. “For me, these cases aren’t just data points. My sister is a survivor of FGM. When I was eleven and she was seven, we traveled on our own to visit our aunt in India over the summer. What I thought was a routine summer vacation turned out to be a horror story for my sister. Our aunt cut my little sister in her basement clinic. I later learned that my aunt carried this out without our parents’ consent and to this day, believes she did the right thing.
“I learned about my sister’s experience when she shared her story in the Guardian a few years ago,” Saifee continued. “Before then, I didn’t know much about FGM. I had no idea it was happening in this country let alone in my community. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ definition, FGM is a human rights abuse, form of gender-based violence and child abuse. And in my sister’s words: FGM destroyed her childhood, shattered her self-confidence, and is something she will never fully recover from.
“Right now, we have the power to send a powerful message that FGM has no place in this country. I am writing to urge Washington state legislators to pass a law banning FGM in the state of Washington, as well as provide the resources needed to support FGM survivors and educate communities (healthcare providers, religious leaders, school teachers, and policymakers) around the devastating consequences of FGM. We need a holistic approach where prosecution is not the end goal, but a pathway to prevention.”
Thus far, nearly 88,000 have signed the petition. Read the full petition here.
Besides Washington, additional states that do not currently outlaw FGM include: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Vermont and Wyoming.
EndFGMToday has asserted many times that state laws criminalizing FGM are all the more crucial now, after a Michigan judge ruled last year that the federal FGM law was unconstitutional.
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 and barbaric practice.