Why Has Washington State Not Acted to Outlaw This Shocking Human Rights Violation?

Why Has Washington State Not Acted to Outlaw This Shocking Human Rights Violation?

The State Must Follow the 38 Others in Our Country That Have Made It a Crime to Harm Vulnerable Young Girls, Urges #EndFGMToday

August 17, 2020

Washington, D.C.—COVID-19. Social unrest. Political battles. Tropical storms. Americans right now are facing a slew of serious challenges in their daily lives.

But the immigrant population of Washington State remains vulnerable to an insidious form of child abuse—especially as chaos, violence, and a push for “police defunding” have become a focus.

Stunningly, the abhorrent practice known as FGM—female genital mutilation—is still lawful as of this moment in Washington. The Evergreen State and 11 other states have fallen behind the 38 others that have all taken decisive legislative action to outlaw FGM and protect their very young and vulnerable female residents from the outrageous procedure.

“Currently, 12 states in America do not have laws to prohibit female genital mutilation—and that is 12 states too many,” says Elizabeth Yore, an internationally renowned attorney and a child welfare advocate who runs EndFGMToday. “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 girls as young as the age of five,” she says.

“FGM leaves physical and emotional scars for a lifetime,” Yore adds. She knows this all too well—as her group “works closely with women in their 50s and 60s who still deal with the side effects and traumatic memories today.”

In Washington’s State Senate, SB 5257 has been reintroduced for 2020. But there the bill sits—stalled for now.

So far in 2020, three states—Kentucky, Wyoming, and Vermont—have finalized their own anti-FGM legislation. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed SB 72 into law on April 2. In Wyoming, HB0127 sailed through the legislative process and Gov. Mark Gordon signed the bill on March 13. And prior to that, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed H.83 on February 27.

As state legislatures get set to reconvene after COVID-related shutdowns and summer recesses, EndFGMToday suggests key ways that Washington State and the other 11 states can and must prioritize proposed anti-FGM laws.

These states should do the following:

  • Examine the forthright actions of other states to fight this tragic form of child abuse. The AHA Foundation grades states based on the strength of their anti-FGM laws.
  • Use the Population Reference Bureau to research the number of women and girls in each state who remain at terrible risk for FGM.
  • Check EndFGMToday’s state map that highlights those states that still have not passed anti-FGM legislation.

The 12 states that remain without anti-FGM laws are Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and Washington. Some of them have introduced anti-FGM bills or are close to reaching an official introductory stage.

Yore notes that female genital mutilation is a human rights violation—as recognized by both the World Health Organization and the United Nations. Additionally, over 200 million women worldwide have been victims of this cruel and outrageous practice—and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 500,000 girls are at risk of the abhorrent practice in the U.S. alone.

Shockingly, the United States is not among those nations that have outlawed FGM.

A 1996 mandate did exist, but late in 2018, Judge Bernard A. Friedman of Michigan ruled that the federal FGM law was unconstitutional on a technicality that had nothing to do with the actual issue. In the process, serious charges against three alleged FGM perpetrators awaiting trial in Detroit were dismissed.

Yore says this is why state laws criminalizing FGM must remain an urgent priority. Several lawmakers are working toward another federal FGM law.

Elizabeth Yore has spent 30 years in legal child advocacy. Prior to her work at EndFGMToday.com, she served as Special Counsel at Harpo, Inc., as Oprah Winfrey’s child advocate. She was also General Counsel at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services for eight years, as well as General Counsel at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Visit EndFGMToday.com for a state-by-state map that glaringly highlights those states that do not yet have anti-FGM laws. Learn more about the FGM issue at www.EndFGMToday.com or on social media at #EndFGMToday.


To interview Elizabeth Yore of #EndFGMToday, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Patrick Benner, 610.584.1096, ext. 104, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.