Will Pennsylvania Be the Next State to Stand Up for Potential Victims of Female Genital Mutilation?
Even in U.S., Women and Girls Subject to Horrific Mutilation; 23 States Still Don’t Protect Their Residents from FGM
Washington—Female genital mutilation (FGM) isn’t a practice that can be passed off as “happening only in other countries.”
In fact, FGM occurs right here in the United States, and only 27 states have enacted anti-FGM laws. Alarmingly, of the states in the top 10 for FGM risk to women and girls, four have no laws criminalizing the cruel and unnecessary practice. Pennsylvania is one of these states where girls and women are at the most risk for FGM, but some Pennsylvania legislators are in the process of trying to protect them.
Elizabeth Yore, international child advocate and head of the national #EndFGMToday initiative, points to research detailed by the Population Reference Bureau that outlines the 10 states with metro areas where FGM risks are the highest: New Jersey, Virginia, Minnesota, California, Washington (state), Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Massachusetts.
“We have been working with legislators in some of these states who know they should stand up and say they are committed to protecting women and girls from FGM by sponsoring and supporting bills to criminalize this procedure,” Yore said. “This can and should be a bipartisan issue, as evidenced by the 27 states with laws already in place. States must not wait until there are brutal ‘examples’ of FGM before they take action. Why wait if a little girl’s emotion and physical health could be at stake?”
In Pennsylvania, Rep. Thomas Murt (R-Montgomery/Philadelphia) has championed House Bill 2526, which would specifically criminalize the act of FGM in the Commonwealth.
“Our current laws are simply not sufficient to protect women from this barbaric practice,” Murt said in a statement. “My legislation would make FGM a first-degree felony under the law and bring Pennsylvania in line with … other states that have already criminalized FGM. … My legislation would grant women the protection they deserve from the torturous and life-threatening practice of FGM. Although a difficult topic for most people to talk about and admit takes place, we need to confront this evil practice head on and hold those who commit this crime responsible.”
Murt added he is pleased with the bi-partisan support the bill has received thus far. For example, State Rep. Joanna McClinton, a Democrat who represents the 191st District that covers Delaware County and Philadelphia, told The Philadelphia Tribune that she supports the bill, saying, “There’s no question that this horrendous act should be outlawed and the fact that there are no laws on the books making it illegal in Pennsylvania is simply unacceptable and disgusting.”
As the AHA Foundation estimates that more than 19,000 girls in Pennsylvania are potentially at risk for FGM, state Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky also said there is no place for FGM in “Pennsylvania or anywhere else.”
“This is just one step we need to better defend women and girls,” she told the Washington Informer, “and I’ll keep fighting to make sure we protect women and their rights.”
The Pennsylvania State Senate meets for one more session day this year—today, Nov. 14, beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
Yore noted that the Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 500,000 girls and women are at risk of FGM in the United States. Female genital mutilation is also 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.
View a state-by-state map of those who do have anti-FGM laws at EndFGMToday.com. Anti-FGM efforts are underway in several additional states that do not yet have laws on the books.
Learn more about FGM on social media at #EndFGMToday, as well as efforts in the U.S. to stop it.