- Female Genital Mutilation Fact Sheet
- Forced Marriage and Child Marriage Fact Sheet
- Honor Violence Fact Sheet
Female Genital Mutilation Fact SheetWhat is female genital mutilation? Female genital mutilation (FGM) is any procedure involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs and is often performed on girls between the ages of 4 and 14 to ensure their virginity until marriage. Is female genital mutilation harmful? Yes. The World Health Organization reports that FGM has no health benefits and can cause a number of health problems. Immediately following the procedure, girls are at risk for severe pain, shock, bleeding, bacterial infection, and injury to nearby tissue. In the long term, girls and women who have suffered this procedure are at risk for recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections; cysts, infertility, and complications during childbirth. Is female genital mutilation practiced in the United States? Because this is a private ritual that occurs within the secrecy of the family, there is no way of knowing exactly how prevalent FGM is in the U.S. Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that approximately 513,000 women and girls in the U.S. have either suffered the procedure or are at risk of FGM, a number that approximately doubled between 2000 and 2014. The estimated number of girls at risk of FGM in the US has quadrupled since 1997. Is female genital mutilation a crime? Yes, FGM has been a crime under federal law since 1996 and is punishable by up to five years in prison. In January 2013, the federal FGM law was amended by the Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act, which prohibits knowingly transporting a girl out of the country for the purpose of undergoing FGM. The Act was designed to address the problem of “vacation cutting”, in which girls living in the United States are taken to their parents’ country of origin (typically during school breaks) to undergo the procedure. Under the new federal law, anyone found guilty of doing so may be sentenced to up to five years in prison. FGM is also a crime in the following 26 states:
Arizona Florida Louisiana Missouri North Dakota South Dakota West Virginia
California Georgia Maryland Nevada Oregon Tennessee Wisconsin
Colorado Illinois Michigan New Jersey Oklahoma Texas
Delaware Kansas Minnesota New York Rhode Island Virginia
The AHA Foundation has successfully advocated for laws criminalizing FGM in the United States:
- Federal Extraterritoriality Amendment - In January 2013, President Obama strengthened the existing federal FGM ban by adding an “extraterritoriality” component, making it illegal to knowingly transport a girl out of the country for the purpose of undergoing the procedure. The AHA Foundation’s Founder, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and our legislative team specifically consulted with Representative Crowley (NY), a key proponent of the Bill, on the serious problem of “vacation cutting”, and lent our support for the language contained in the new Bill.
- New Jersey - In February 2012, New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg introduced the AHA Foundation’s model FGM legislation, which was signed into law in 2014.
- Louisiana - In May of 2012, Governor Jindal signed into law a bill criminalizing FGM in the state of Louisiana. This bill includes the AHA Foundation’s model language that also makes it a crime to remove a girl from the state for the purpose of FGM; the law went into effect August 1, 2012.
- Kansas - In February of 2013, the AHA Foundation provided written testimony in support of a proposed FGM bill in Kansas, which includes an extra-territoriality component and other provisions contained in our model legislation. The Bill was signed into law by Governor Brownback on April 10, 2013.
- South Dakota - The AHA Foundation provided a response to address concerns that a ban on FGM would infringe on religious freedom. The Foundation also sent a letter in support of the bill to all members of the South Dakota Senate. The legislation was passed by the Senate and signed into law in March 2015.
- Texas – Senator Jane Nelson proposed to strengthen the Texas legislation after seeing Ayaan’s appearance on the Tucker Carlson show. Her legislation included creating a penalty for parents and guardians who have their child undergo the procedure, outlawing “vacation cutting,” and eliminating the use of culture as a defense for the practice. The Foundation supported Nelson’s legislation by providing a letter of support and Ayaan applauded the Senator’s action on Twitter. The bill swiftly passed in the state and the legislation went into effect on September 1st, 2017.
- Michigan - The AHA Foundation played a pivotal role in getting the strongest to-date state FGM legislation passed in Michigan. The Foundation not only provided resources and advice on the bills, but in May 2017, Senior Director Amanda Parker testified in front of the Michigan House Committee on Law and Justice, successfully urging lawmakers to pass the comprehensive package of FGM legislation. The legislation was signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder in July 2017.
Forced Marriage and Child Marriage Fact SheetWHAT IS FORCED MARRIAGE? A forced marriage occurs when an individual is forced, coerced, threatened, or tricked to marry without their informed consent. HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE? In many cultures, it is customary for families to arrange meetings between their children in the hopes of fostering a voluntary relationship that will lead to a marriage. In such situations, while the initial meetings are arranged by the families and a marriage is encouraged, the ultimate decision regarding whether to marry remains with the couple and the choice to marry is strictly voluntary. In contrast, in a forced marriage, an individual is threatened and/or coerced by her family to enter into the marriage against her will and may suffer honor violence if she resists or refuses the marriage. DOES THIS HAPPEN IN THE UNITED STATES? Yes. Although this is generally treated as a private family matter that remains hidden from public view, there are numerous reports of girls being taken out of school in the United States in their early teenage years and returned to their parents’ home countries to be forcibly married. For example, in 2007, the New York Daily News reported that a number of girls were being forced to return to Pakistan to marry men chosen by their families. One woman recalled being tricked and drugged before being put on a plane to Pakistan and, once there, being forced at gunpoint to acquiesce to a marriage to a man chosen by her father. The Tahirih Justice Center released survey results in September of 2011 that found as many as 3,000 known or suspected cases of forced marriage within immigrant communities in the United States in the two years preceding the survey. We believe the actual number of forced marriage cases in the United States to be much higher, as the survey was directed only towards service providers and other professionals. The AHA Foundation conducted a study in partnership with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice looking at forced marriage in New York City. The researchers interviewed CUNY students whose families originated from countries with a high incidence of forced marriage on their experiences with relationships and marriage. Of those students interviewed, 84% knew of at least one person in their social circle who did not want to marry their partner but did so anyway. The likely reason for this disconnect is family conflict over marital choice. IS FORCED MARRIAGE A CRIME IN THE UNITED STATES? There are only ten U.S. states and territories that have specifically outlawed forced marriage (source: Tahirih Justice Center).
Maryland Virgin Islands
Mississippi Washington, D.C.
Nevada West Virginia
WHAT IS A CHILD MARRIAGE? Child marriage is the marriage of a minor below the legal age of maturity, which is 18 in the United States. DOES THIS HAPPEN IN THE UNITED STATES? Yes. Between the years 2000 and 2010, nearly 250,000 children as young as 12 were married in the United States (source: Unchained at Last). IS CHILD MARRIAGE LEGAL IN THE UNITED STATES? There is no state in the U.S. that does not allow marriage below the age of 18 with either parental and/or judicial consent. There are also no mechanisms for judges to determine whether the minor is willfully entering into a marriage or whether there is coercion or force on behalf of the parents (source: Unchained at Last). Connecticut, New York, Virginia, and Texas recently passed legislation to prevent child marriage. Additionally, several states currently have legislation in motion that would outlaw child marriage, including Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Yet, no state legislation outlaw’s child marriage with no exceptions.