On January 13, 2021, a resident of Houston, Texas was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly transporting a minor for the purpose of female genital mutilation (FGM), which is the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. This is the first time charges have been brought against a defendant for transporting a child outside of U.S. borders to facilitate this human rights abuse.
“This new case is a stark reminder that little girls in the U.S. are vulnerable to FGM, and it illustrates the importance of passing comprehensive laws in every state that work to combat this practice. We need to do more than punish perpetrators after the fact, we need to put serious resources into ensuring that not one more girl is forced to endure this painful practice,” says Amanda Parker, Senior Director at AHA Foundation.
Currently, 39 states have enacted laws addressing FGM. State laws signal that FGM is not tolerated in a state, give prosecutors the tools they need to bring perpetrators to justice, and fill gaps left by federal law. Crucially, comprehensive state laws can provide for education and outreach to communities and professionals likely to encounter cases of FGM and can ensure survivors have the ability to stand up for themselves in a court of law, should they choose to do so.
“Existing Texas state law is a good start but needs improvement. It has no education and outreach component and does not provide for a survivor to seek monetary damages for what has happened to her. Shockingly, cutting the genitals of a girl in the state of Texas is punished less severely than cutting off any other body part would be, which certainly sends the wrong message about the serious harms of this practice. Appropriately strong penalties serve as a deterrent to those considering whether or not to have their daughters cut,” says Ms. Parker.
FGM is internationally recognized as a human rights abuse that harms women both physically and psychologically. Millions of women across the globe live with the consequences of FGM every day, including immediate side effects of severe pain, bleeding, and long-term consequences such as infertility or post-traumatic stress disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 513,000 women and girls in the U.S. have undergone FGM or are at risk of being cut.
Recently, H.R. 6100, the “STOP FGM Act of 2020,” was signed into law strengthening protections against FGM for women in the U.S. at the federal level. H.R. 6100 affirms the federal government’s ability to prosecute perpetrators of FGM when interstate commerce is involved, expands the scope of punishable offenses, and increases criminal penalties for performing FGM on a minor.
About the AHA Foundation:
AHA Foundation was established by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in 2007 to put the ideas she writes about into practice. The organization advocates liberty for all by championing human rights and individual liberties above cultural, social or religious imperatives. As a 501(c)3 non-profit, AHA Foundation, raises funds and leads programs to protect women from honor violence, to advance freedom of speech on campuses and in public debate, as well as supporting the work of Muslim reformers.
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