Beyoncé has often been controversial, but her latest video deserves unanimous applause for raising awareness of how girls are still treated as second class citizens in too much of the world, where violence, female genital mutilation, and child marriage are too often the norm.
American women on the right and the left may have different opinions about tax policy, government’s role in regulating the workplace, and the size of the social safety net. But we should be able to speak with one voice on this: Women and girls everywhere deserve basic human rights and to be free from violence and exploitation.
We should call on American leaders to prioritize encouraging countries around the globe to recognize women’s human rights and make progress toward women’s full and equal participation in society. U.S. policy leaders should also double down on their commitment to ensuring that we don’t import some of the worst practices from overseas into our borders.
A Place to Start: Combating Female Genital Mutilation
The World Health Organization estimates that at least 200 million women and girls have experienced Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which is the term used for the practice of cutting, removing or otherwise damaging female genitalia. The purpose of FGM is simple: to prevent girls and women from the potential of experiencing sexual pleasure, and therefore to discourage sex outside of marriage. There is no medical benefit to this practice. Rather it results in severe medical complications that can inflict a woman for a lifetime.
If feminism stands for anything, it ought to be unequivocally against this abhorrent practice that violates women’s human rights and dignity, and seeks to render female bodies as vessels for men’s enjoyment, while denying women any of their own.
Rates of FGM in some parts of Africa are staggering: According to this report by the General Accounting Office, in Egypt, Sudan, Mali, Guinea, and Somalia, more than 80 percent of women between the ages 15 and 49 have reported undergoing FGM. Turning these country’s laws and customs away from this practice will be no easy feat. It should be a diplomatic priority to develop strategies to outlaw this custom and to educate leaders on the significant negative impact this has on women and society.
We also need to take action to prevent the importation of this practice to America, and to prevent American citizens from being forced to undergo FGM elsewhere around the globe.
Originally posted on Forbes: