Harrisburg, PA — Congressman Scott Perry is calling on the Pennsylvania Senate to pass legislation expressly criminalizing Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C). The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation earlier this month to ban the practice. Perry sent letters to the Governor and the Senate Judiciary Committee Chair, expressing the urgent need for a state law. Perry’s efforts come in the wake of the recent U.S. Department of Justice decision not to appeal a court decision striking down the federal ban on FGM/C.
“Now’s the time to stand up for the voiceless, and criminalize the horrific practice of Female Genital Mutilation once and for all. Given the Department of Justice’s decision, both the federal government and each state must work within their Constitutional jurisdiction to protect women and young girls at risk for FGM/C. It’s imperative that the State Senate take up proposals to stop the unconscionable and reprehensible practice of FGM/C. I’m grateful to State Representative Thomas P. Murt (R-Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob W. Kauffman (R-Franklin County) for their diligence in this matter,” said Perry.
Pennsylvania currently is one of 19 states that has no adequate legal protections for those at risk of FGM/C.
FGM/C is a deeply rooted cultural practice, with varying degrees of severity, and comprises all procedures that involved partial or total removal of the external genitalia, or other injury to the genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM/C is classified into four major types – which range from pricking and scraping, to the total removal of the clitoris and the narrowing of the vaginal opening. FGM/C has no health benefit, as substantiated by the World Health Organization. Quite to the contrary, the practice causes numerous physical complications, including difficulty urinating and menstruating, severe bleeding, scarring, myriad sexual problems, increased risk of childbirth complications, shock, and even death.
Since 1996, a federal law banning FGM/C has protected young girls and women in the United States from the abhorrent practice; however, in 2017, a federal district judge struck down the federal law on the grounds that FGM/C is local criminal activity and under our federal system of government is reserved for the states to regulate, not the federal government. The Pennsylvania General Assembly must recognize that it’s now their responsibility to protect young girls and women from this horrendous practice and swiftly pass a state law.
“The recent federal court ruling in Michigan has, once again, brought this issue to the forefront. As our society becomes more transient and diverse, renewed efforts to prevent this atrocity are necessary. In no uncertain terms, FGM/C must end immediately and those who perpetrate it will be brought to swift justice in the United States,” said Perry.
Calling on action from the states is the latest in a series of efforts by Congressman Perry to raise awareness and prevent the practice of FGM/C. Early this Congress, Perry offered bipartisan legislation within the federal government’s jurisdiction to end the practice in the United States: H.R. 959, the “Protect our Girls Act,” and H.R. 960, the “Empower Our Girls Act.”
Perry’s first proposal, the Protect our Girls Act, expressly criminalizes the transport of a minor across state lines for the purpose of FGM/C. His second proposal, the Empower Our Girls Act, adds FGM/C to seven Violence Against Women Act grant programs, allowing the grants to be used to assist victims of this horrendous crime.
Perry also co-leads a resolution with Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) that condemns FGM/C and recognizes the practice as a violation of the human rights of women and girls. H.Res. 106 was passed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 9, 2019.
“We must stand up for these young women. My bills are about protecting them from a barbaric practice, within the authority of the federal government. By themselves, the bills don’t do enough to stop FGM/C, which is why I’m urging the States to act,” Perry continued.
Around the world, more than 200 million girls and women have been cut, with an additional 3 million annually estimated at risk.