Against All Odds, U.S. Congress Passes Federal FGM Ban

The U.S. Congress passed a bill that will effectively outlaw FGM. Now, the bill awaits the signature of President Donald Trump.

12-16-2020

Update from January 5: President Trump signed the STOP FGM Act of 2020 into law after it was passed by Congress on December 16. We can not explain how excited we are to finally give women and girls at risk of this horrible procedure the federal protection they deserve. Our work must continue. There are still 11 states and the District of Columbia that still do not have state law against this heinous practice


Late last night we received news that the STOP FGM Act of 2020 passed unanimously in the Senate!

18 long months since it was found unconstitutional and left in legal limbo, the federal law against female genital mutilation (FGM) has finally been reaffirmed!  

Survivors, advocates, donors, legislators—hundreds of people who have worked tirelessly on the front lines of this enormous effort—can now breathe a sigh of relief. These are their reactions coming in from across our nation:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, FGM survivor and founder of AHA Foundation:

“In an incredibly difficult year, the little girls in our country who are vulnerable to this painful practice were not forgotten. The STOP FGM Act is a strong bill that makes it clear that in this country, we do not tolerate this practice, and we will not stand idly by as girls are cut.”

Nevaeh Novak, FGM survivor from South Carolina:

“Oh my gosh. That is FABULOUS!!! Thank goodness people are listening and acting to protect us. I’m overjoyed!! Best Christmas gift!!!”

Marsha Blackburn, Senator from Tennessee:

“I’m pleased that we’ve finally reached agreement on language to enhance penalties for female genital mutilation, a truly horrible practice. I introduced legislation on this subject last year, and I thank my colleagues in the House who worked with me on this issue. The law that passed will send a strong message that Congress condemns the violent and disgusting butchery of young girls and women in this country.”

Joni Ernst, Senator from Iowa:

“As we’re wrapping up this Congress, it’s certainly encouraging to see that we’ve made progress in eliminating the horrific practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is an uncomfortable issue to discuss, but we must continue calling attention to it and educating ourselves on the signs so that we are equipped to protect young girls from this excruciating practice.”

Andrea G.Bottner, Senior Advisor to Independent Women’s Forum:

“The STOP FGM Act of 2020 will finally offer young women and girls stronger protection from the horror of female genital mutilation. No girl should ever have to face this in her lifetime. The bipartisan nature of this legislation shows that when it comes to the safety of young girls, politics shouldn’t matter.”

Deborah Benson, led Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association coalition to end FGM in Massachusetts:

“FGM is a cultural norm that legitimizes and reinforces harmful attitudes about women and girls and their place in society and inhibits a girl’s right of self-determination over her reproductive and sexual health. Passing this legislation is a step towards the elimination of gender inequality.”

Jenny, an FGM survivor and advocate from Kentucky:

“I was so thankful to hear that Congress has passed a federal law banning FGM. This will be life-changing for girls that are at risk in this country, and for moms wanting to protect girls from this practice within their communities but didn’t have anything to help them in that fight to protect them. FGM/C can be life-changing for anyone that endures it, can negatively impact a victims life in so many ways, I am filled with so much joy for so many girls that will be saved because of this law.”

Joanna, Founder and Executive Director of forma:

“I’m thrilled with the passage of this critical and long-awaited FGM bill!!!!  My thanks and gratitude go to the AHA Foundation for your relentless policy and program initiatives to help make this happen!!! It will help protect the many girls who are at risk of being cut and will help advance abandonment efforts!”

 

Undoubtedly, this is AHA Foundation’s biggest accomplishment this year. 2020 has been incredibly busy for Congress—between COVID-19 relief and social justice reform, senators and representatives were overwhelmed with difficult work. Nevertheless, we continued to remind them that girls at risk of FGM in the U.S. still need us. We continued to argue that we must not turn a blind eye, and by sharing stories from survivors, counselors, and police officers working on the front lines, we highlighted their worries that girls are at a heightened risk of FGM this year due to lockdowns.

All of these efforts paid off.

In September, the bill, which had been introduced by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, was passed by the House of Representatives before moving to the Senate Judiciary Committee. With the pandemic still raging and a looming election, there was a lot of concern that this bill would never make it out of Congress. Those fears were reinforced when the Lame-Duck session began.  

Yet, calling for bipartisan support has always been AHA Foundation’s legislative approach.  We believe that women’s rights are not a political issue and we should all rally around protecting women and girls at risk. At the end of the day, Congress took that approach when they joined together to pass this FGM bill.

The Senate knew they couldn’t let the opportunity to protect thousands of girls pass them by. Thankfully, Senators like Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee and Joni Ernst from Iowa worked to ensure the bill did not die in the Senate. 

You can read our joint press release with Independent Women’s Voice on the victory here.

           More on FGM:

18 Comments

  1. Hans Castorp says:

    One down (FGM), one to go (MGM).

  2. All children deserve protections from religious and cultural cutting regardless of gender.

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  4. It is there now.
    Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light

  5. Nice one. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Nice content, Thanks for sharing!

  7. click says:

    With the passage of the federal law ban, the Female Genital Mutilation Act, in 1996, performing FGM on anyone under age 18 became a felony in the United States.

  8. Motherhen says:

    HOORAY! The presence of so many naysayers in these comments is appalling. Thank God they did NOT prevail!

  9. chris says:

    i’m confused. what gender inequality is this law taking a step towards eliminating.

  10. Walter Fletcher says:

    This still violates the Equal Protection Clause that rendered the 96 FGM law unconstitutional. All children deserve protections from religious and cultural cutting regardless of gender.

  11. Walter Fletcher says:

    While I’m happy to see protections for girls in this matter, this will still violate the equal protections clause. That was one of the reasons the 96 law was deemed unconstitutional in 2018. ALL CHILDREN DESERVE EQUAL PROTECTION!

  12. So hard to believe that the people celebrating this law as affirming “equality” for girls and women don’t see what is glaringly obvious: we live in a country that not only tolerates, but PROMOTES, the routine removal of baby boys’ normal, healthy prepuces (foreskins), while decrying any cutting of girls’ genitals. A recent survey by Intact America found that 94% of mothers of newborn boys were asked at least one time if they wanted to circumcise their sons; the average number of asks was 6.5. Anyone ever been asked, “You want your daughter circumcised, right?” Point made. This law, if ultimately signed into law, cries out for an equal protection challenge and either nullification or (preferably) modification to protect ALL children.

  13. Dan Bollinger says:

    Ugh. A reprised blow against male child genital cutting masquerading as progress.

  14. Graham Richards says:

    I was interested to read the horror expressed by many in the article over FGM. But, curiously, FGM Type 1a is exactly equivalent to Male circumcision (ie removal of the prepuce) and Type 4 is far less invasive, involving only (eg) pin pricks and the drawing of blood. These Types are included in the anti FGM legislation of most countries. So one must ask, where is the horror in America regarding the paedocircumcision of boys without medical cause?

  15. Catherine says:

    We need a ban that also protects boys. All children should be free of genital cutting. All mammals have a foreskin protecting the clitoral or penile glans. In babies the foreskin stays fused to the glans until puberty and shouldn’t be retracted by anyone but the boy/girl when they are ready because retraction is a sexual function. When aroused they both engorge with blood flow and grow out of their covering. Arousal is a temporary state, not a permanent look. No animal or human is meant to look chronically aroused. When will boys get equal protection?

  16. Pete says:

    Truly glad this has gone through, genital mutilation is an appalling thing to do to your children. I hope that now that girls have been protected from this vile practise you will put your efforts towards helping boys as well. Genital mutilation is something that does nobody any good.

  17. Frank McGinness says:

    “Passing this legislation is a step towards the elimination of gender inequality.”
    — Deborah Benson

    True, if only intersex and males were already enjoying genital protection by law. But this protection of females only steps the other direction, further creating more gender inequality.

    And the group that has more rights and privileges, will develop hubris, leads to malign and attack groups that have less rights. Only equality brings social happiness and prosperity. This is Jefferson’s reason insisting on equality.

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