More States Make Headway to Criminalize and Thereby Eradicate Female Genital Mutilation in U.S.

posted by Christopher W. Holton

EndFGMToday: State Laws Are Even More Crucial Now After the Federal Ban Was Ruled Unconstitutional

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A bill to criminalize the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation in South Carolina is one step closer to becoming a much-needed law. 

The national EndFGMToday campaign reports that the bill sponsored by Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford in South Carolina has overwhelmingly passed the full State House of Representatives; H 3973 now heads to the State Senate. FGM survivor Kadi Doumbia of Mali, who has been a supportive partner of EndFGMToday’s efforts, testified before the South Carolina House sub-committee about the need for the law in the state.

EndFGMToday leaders also are sharing that a bill to prohibit FGM in Arkansas has also passed the state House of Representatives. Rep. Robin Lundstrum’s bill is a companion to the measure sponsored by Sen. Breanne Davis, SB 318, which previously passed the Senate. The bill also creates awareness programs and statistical tracking of unlawful FGM, and the next stop is the desk of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

“The #EndFGMToday movement is very encouraged to see progress in several states regarding anti-FGM legislations thus far in 2019,” said internationally renowned attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore, who heads EndFGMToday. “We expect this will be the year that many states step up and take initiative to enact strong FGM legislation and protections. State laws criminalizing FGM are all the more crucial now, after Michigan District Judge Bernard Friedmann ruled that the federal FGM law was unconstitutional. In the process, serious charges against three alleged FGM perpetrators awaiting trial in Detroit were dismissed. States are now realizing they must enact their own laws to protect their girls from this travesty.”

Bills are also moving through legislatures of several other states. 

In Idaho, HB 114, which has passed the Idaho house, adds a section to the state code that performing FGM on a child will be a felony, punishable by up to life in prison. HB 114 is sponsored by Reps. Priscilla Giddings and Caroline Nilsson Troy and now heads to the Idaho Senate. (LATE ADDITION: HB114 has now passed the Idaho Senate as well)

Late last month, North Carolina introduced Senate Bill 9, which would make performing FGM in North Carolina a Class C felony—with a 44- to 182-month prison sentence—and would also penalize those who consent to the procedure, such as a parent or guardian. 

EndFGMToday advocates are also working on measures to either enact or strengthen anti-FGM laws in Alabama, Connecticut, Minnesota, Mississippi and Tennessee. 

Ohio became the 28th state to outlaw FGM when legislators voted in favor of an FGM bill in December and Gov. John Kasich signed it into law in January. 

Almost half the states in the nation, however, have not instituted laws to criminalize the barbaric procedure of FGM, which is performed on girls as young as 7 years old and leaves physical and emotional scars for a lifetime. 

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 500,000 women and girls are at risk for FGM in the U.S. Yore also 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 million women worldwide have been subjected to this cruel practice.

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