Genital mutilation must be banned

A long-standing U.S. ban on the practice was struck down.

Dozens of countries have enacted laws against female genital cutting, a procedure in which parts of young girls’ genitalia are surgically altered or removed for nonmedical reasons.

For more than 20 years, the United States was one of them. That changed last month when a federal judge in Michigan struck down the long-standing U.S. ban on the practice, which is sometimes called female genital mutilation, or female circumcision.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said the cutting of young girls’ genitals is a local criminal matter that must be regulated by the states, not by Congress.

“As despicable as this practice may be, it is essentially a criminal assault,” Friedman wrote. Female genital mutilation “is not part of a larger market and it has no demonstrated effect on interstate commerce. The Commerce Clause does not permit Congress to regulate a crime of this nature.”

For now, that leaves states to decide whether to criminalize this procedure, which is typically performed on girls age 15 and younger for social, cultural or religious reasons. Twenty-seven U.S. states currently ban female genital cutting.


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