The AHA Foundation was honored to sit down with Representative Dave Trott’s office last month to discuss the Stopping Abusive Female Exploitation (SAFE) Act, which increases the penalty for female genital mutilation (FGM) from five to 15 years. This act, H.R. 3317, was put forth by Representative Trott (R-MI), along with Representative Maloney (D-NY), this August. It was then assigned to the House Committee on the Judiciary and further, to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. The AHA Foundation is excited to see the issue of FGM being raised on the federal level and we were lucky to have the opportunity to ask Representative Trott a few questions.
AHA Foundation: What inspired you to put forward H.R. 3317 or the SAFE Act?
Representative Trott: As a lifelong resident of Southeast Michigan, I was horrified to learn that three local residents, including two physicians – professionals we trust with our children – allegedly performed and participated in female genital mutilation.
I am disturbed by the fact that these heinous practices were being performed at all, let alone so close to home. The impact of this case led me to look at our current federal laws, where I was shocked to see they are severely lacking. I want to ensure our girls are safe, and this bill is a strong first step.
AHA Foundation: Why is it important to increase the penalty for FGM from five to 15 years?
Representative Trott: We must make it clear to Americans and to the rest of the world that female genital mutilation will not be tolerated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 500,000 girls in the U.S. have undergone or are at risk of female genital mutilation. That’s 500,000 girls too many. We need to protect our girls, right here, in America, and increasing the penalty will go a long way in doing that.
AHA Foundation: What can our supporters do to help with the passage of this legislation?
Representative Trott: Contact your representative. Let them know this issue is a priority for you. I was proud to introduce this bill with my Democratic colleague Rep. Maloney from New York. This issue is nonpartisan, and as evidenced by recent events in Michigan, it is pertinent. Make sure your representative knows, no matter our political differences, we must ensure this barbaric practice is eradicated from our communities.
Senior Director, Amanda Parker, and Executive Director, George Zarubin meeting with Representative Dave Trott's Staff
Thanks to Representative Trott and other co-sponsors on the SAFE Act, we now have a strong chance to send an important message that FGM is a serious crime and will not be tolerated in the United States. Increasing the penalty for FGM from five to 15 years will serve as a serious deterrent and will also further solidify the U.S. stance against FGM.
It is now your turn to take action. To join the fight, please visit our advocacy page to find model letters to send to your Representatives and urge them to pass H.R. 3317. Let your Representatives know that while FGM is already illegal in the United States on the federal level, a punishment of only five years does not reflect the gravity of the crime. A stronger federal punishment will ensure that little girls in the United States are better protected.
Urge your legislators to follow Representative Trott’s lead in protecting little girls across the country. For more information or questions on advocacy, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Number of Women and Girls At Risk: 25,000
Status: Existing Legislation Needs Strengthening
Improve by adding: Prosecuting parents/guardian, felony offense