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Alabama, Mississippi the only Deep South states without laws against female genital mutilation

Brandon Moseley

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EndFGMToday, an issue advocacy group, said Tuesday that it’s time for Mississippi and Alabama to join the other 35 other states to protect women and girls from female genital mutilation, which they said happens right here in the U.S.

Only 15 states in the nation have not yet enacted their own anti-female genital mutilation legislation. Eight more states have enacted FGM laws in the last year. North Carolina is the latest state to protect its women and girls from this practice.

House Bill 421 was introduced in Alabama, the House of Representatives during the 2019 legislative session; but the legislature adjourned early without ever taking any action on HB 421. The bill would criminalize FGM. It passed the Judiciary Committee in May. The proposed legislation would make performing or facilitating FGM on a female under the age of 19 a Class B felony.

In Mississippi, according to the national EndFGMToday campaign, legislators allowed Senate Bill 2472 to die in committee in February. EndFGMToday said that with the 2019 legislative session complete, lawmakers lost their chance this year to protect their female residents from a cruel and barbaric practice.

“As more and more states enact powerful anti-FGM laws that speak volumes, child advocates are increasingly concerned that Mississippi and Alabama are remaining silent so far on this serious issue that affects women and girls,” said attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore, who heads EndFGMToday. “Mississippi and Alabama’s Southern neighbors—Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and the Carolinas—all have FGM laws in place. As such, Mississippi and Alabama risk the dubious distinction and danger of being a lure for female genital mutilators. As soon as the legislative sessions begin again, FGM laws in Mississippi and Alabama must be a priority.”

EndFGMToday has called on Kentucky legislators to sponsor anti-FGM legislation as well.

EndFGMToday has also asserted many times that state laws criminalizing FGM are all the more crucial now, after a Michigan judge ruled that the federal FGM law was unconstitutional. Federal charges against three alleged FGM perpetrators awaiting trial in Detroit were dismissed.

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Yore noted that female genital mutilation is recognized by both the World Health Organization and the United Nations as a human rights violation perpetrated upon little girls and women.

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According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 200 million women worldwide have been subjected to this cruel practice, and over half a million women and girls are at risk of FGM right here in the United States.

Female Genital Mutilation is a destructive operation, during which the female genitals are partly or entirely removed or injured with the goal of inhibiting a woman’s sexual feelings. The procedure is sometimes called female circumcision. The clitoris and the labia are cut, almost always without anaesthesia, using a knife, scissors, or razors.

The procedure is usually performed before puberty. The procedure is most frequently performed on girls between the age of four and eight, but recently it is increasingly performed on babies who are only a couple of days, weeks or months old.

Certain ethnic groups in Asian countries practice FGM, including in communities in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. In the Middle East, the practice occurs in Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Iraq, Iran and Palestine. The practice severely restricts a woman’s ability to enjoy sex. Proponents argue that that makes is much less likely that girls will fornicate and that wives are less likely to commit adultery.

Some legislators oppose FGM legislation on the grounds that laws banning the practice limit the religious liberty of the family to practice their religion as they see fit. While the practice is almost always found in the Muslim community, it is not mandated in the Koran.

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