Female Genital Mutilation: The Status of U.S. Laws Restricting the Practice

Nine years after the declaration of the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation by the UN General Assembly in 2012, the United States is failing to protect its women and girls from this harmful practice. The world expects the United States to amplify efforts and to join the global call to eliminate FGM by 2030, especially after the declaration of unconstitutionality of the 20 years-old federal law banning FGM in 2018. Today, women and girls in the country only rely on states’ laws to protect them from this hideous practice.  Read more…

2019 closed with up with 35 states outlawing this practice, including Virginia, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota. Utah was an interesting example of a strong law aiming to protect over 1,769 women and girls at risk in the state. The enacted legislation included felony charges to perpetrators, prosecution of practitioners, parents, guardians, and FGM facilitators, as well as license revocation for medical professionals, among others.

It is expected that laws in other states, such as Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Kentucky, Washington state, and the District of Columbia will get enacted during the 2020 legislative session ending in May. According to the Ayaan Hirsi Ali Foundation, all pieces of legislation should follow an anti-FGM Model Legislation which includes the following criteria:

  • Prosecuting FGM has a felony and not as a misdemeanor.
  • Protecting minors and people under guardianship or conservatorship.
  • Prosecuting practitioners, parents, guardians and other individuals responsible for the care of minors and people under guardianship.
  • Increasing the sentencing period up to 20 years.
  • Moving burden of proof from survivors to investigators.
  • Creating civil actions for survivors.
  • Extending the status of limitation.
  • Penalizing vacation cutting.
  • Punishing medical professional by suspending or revoking their licenses permanently.
  • Introducing FGM information into mandatory sex education classes and general education panels to inform people about the risk associated with these practices.
  • Developing policies and procedures for the training providers of health services on recognizing the risk factors associated with FGM.
  • Introducing mandatory reporting for law enforcement and health care professionals, police personnel, among others.
  • Adopting federal and state FGM tracking system and annual statistical reporting.
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