Federal Judge’s Ruling Leaves Women and Girls in 23 States at Grave Risk of Barbaric Abuse, Lifetimes of Pain and Suffering
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The national EndFGMTodaycampaign deplored a ruling yesterday by District Judge Bernard Friedman of Detroit that found the federal statute prohibiting female genital mutilation (FGM) to be unconstitutional.
The practical effect will be to expose what the Centers for Disease Controlestimates may be as many as 513,000 women and girls across America to involuntary maiming that will inflict throughout their lives physical pain and psychological suffering. At particular risk are females in the 23 states that currently do not have their own prohibitions against FGM.
Elizabeth Yore, an internationally renowned attorney and activist specializing in human rights and child welfare advocacy who heads the EndFGMToday campaign, issued a statement in the wake of Judge Friedman’s ruling. She called in particular on the women of the United States Senate to move immediately to have that chamber join the House of Representatives in approving H.R. 3317, the Stopping Abusive Female Exploitation (SAFE) Act, with an amendment to include in the present statute the requisite Commerce Clause language that will make the existing statutory prohibition of FGM (USC Title 18, Section 116) constitutional.
“EndFGMToday is devastated by Judge Friedman’s finding that the current federal prohibition on female genital mutilation is unconstitutional,” Yore said. “This ruling marks a serious setback for the rights and protection of our most innocent and vulnerable victims. It could result in alleged mutilators currently being prosecuted in Michigan getting off scott-free.
“Even worse,” she added, “the ruling certainly will embolden others to engage in this horrific form of abuse of women and girls in America. That’s because, in the absence of a federal FGM ban, the astounding lack of state-level FGM prohibitions in Maine, Pennsylvania, Washington, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, Arkansas, North and South Carolina, Utah and 13 other states means that girls often as young as 7 years old can be maimed for life—without fear of criminal penalty for the perpetrators. It is naïve and reprehensible to expect that it won’t happen.
“EndFGMToday believes that this travesty must not, and will not, stand. The problem with the 1996 statute that Judge Friedman ruled yesterday was unconstitutional can be readily fixed in the present congressional lame-duck session by amending it explicitly to cite the interstate commerce basis on which the federal government can constitutionally act to regulate or prohibit activities like female genital mutilation.
“Luckily, a vehicle for doing so is at hand: the House of Representatives last December unanimously approved the Stopping Abusive Female Exploitation (SAFE) Act (H.R. 3317) increasing the sentence for FGM under the law Judge Friedman struck down from five to 15 years in prison. It awaits action by the Senate and could be taken up immediately with an amendment to correct the statute’s technical defect and make it constitutional.
“EndFGMToday calls in particular on the women of the U.S. Senate to make the enactment of such an amended SAFE Act a top priority for the remaining days of the 115th Congress,” Yore concluded. “Their leadership is vital to protecting women and girls across the United States from the barbaric crime of female genital mutilation.”
Yore noted that female genital mutilation is recognized by both the World Health Organization and the United Nations as a human rights violation perpetrated upon little girls and women. Over 200 millionwomen worldwide have been subjected to this cruel and barbaric practice.
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