Since 2022, AHA Foundation has worked with Reed Smith LLP and White & Case LLP to publish legal guides for survivors of female genital mutilation (FGM). These guides, tailored for the different laws in different states, are designed to help survivors if they wish to seek legal remedies in both civil and criminal courts. AHA is the first organization to have begun the process of producing such guides.
Typically inflicted on girls between 0 birth and 15, FGM is an internationally recognized form of child abuse and an act of gender-based violence that endangers girls’ lives and causes lifelong harm and trauma. The practice requires young girls to be pinned down so that their legs can be forcibly parted and their genitals cut, often without anesthetics or antiseptics.
And it happens right here, in the U.S.
According to Sean Callaghan’s groundbreaking recent study of FGM in the U.S., which was supported by AHA, at least 384,000 women and girls were living with FGM in 2019, while 31,000 girls were at risk.
These shocking numbers demonstrate the need for robust anti-FGM legislation in every state—and the need for survivors of FGM to know their rights if they wish to seek justice for what was done to them.
For the International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM 2024, on February 6, we are proud to announce the recent publication of FOUR new survivor legal guides, for Washington, Maine, Kansas, and Tennessee which we worked on with Reed Smith. The total number of guides is now 17, with several more in the works.
Reed Smith have produced a video about the impact of these guides. As one of their Senior Associates, Caitlin Chambers, says:
“The impact that I have seen from the legal guides so far comes straight from the AHA Foundation. They have explained that these legal guides help the survivors understand their legal rights and because of that they feel more empowered [and] less confused. They feel less ostracized. And I think that that feeling was one of the things we were trying to accomplish with these guides: to make sure that any survivor who is a victim of these horrific acts doesn’t feel alone.”
Watch the video here.
As AHA Executive Director George Zarubin put it in 2022:
“America can no longer pretend that fighting FGM is fighting someone else’s battle. Rather, we must all educate ourselves, lawyers and non-lawyers alike, about what we can do to end this horrific practice. Millions of girls are turning their eyes to us with hope for the happy, healthy lives to which all children are entitled. For their sake, we can no longer look away.”
FGM Survivor Frances says:
“Thanks so much AHA Foundation for producing such guides for us, I’m a victim and survivor of FGM so when ever I read these things, It makes me happy that we’re not alone. God bless you AHA Foundation once again for putting smile on my face, when I needed you the most. God bless all of you, God bless AHA Foundation for job well done.”
And as Adijatu Kamara, a Reed Smith lawyer who worked on many of the guides, also said in 2022:
“[We] hope that the guides will serve as an eye-opener to the practice of FGM in its basic form—an act of child abuse, gender discrimination, and sanctioned violence against females under the premise of traditional or religious beliefs.”
Finally, AHA’s Director of Policy and Women’s Programs Michele Hanash had this to say:
“It has been a privilege to work with the fantastic team at Reed Smith to develop this latest batch of legal guides for FGM survivors. As a survivor-founded organization, this project is deeply meaningful to us at AHA.“
Thanks to all of our supporters for helping us make a real difference in the lives of FGM survivors. We will keep fighting until FGM is eradicated in the U.S.
Further information: You can read an introduction to the guides from our Executive Director George Zarubin here and an interview with Adijatu Kamara, a Reed Smith lawyer who worked on many of the guides, here. Both of these were published in 2022. You can find all of the guides themselves here.