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Group urges legislators to pass female genital mutilation bills in upcoming session

The Alabama Statehouse in Montgomery, Alabama.

Alabama is one of just 15 states where girls have no laws protecting them against female genital mutilation.

The EndFGMToday initiative wants all states to pass laws outlawing the procedure in 2020. They also are trying to get federal legislation passed.

“A major positive development in FGM legislation was the introduction of two federal companion bills that would criminalize FGM nationwide,” said EndFGMToday leader, internationally renowned attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore. “Earlier this summer, EndFGMToday applauded Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Pennsylvania Congressman Scott Perry, who introduced HR3583 and S2017, which would outlaw this heinous form of child abuse on a national level.”

Currently, 15 states, including Alabama and Mississippi, do not have criminalization laws in place to protect women and girls from the brutal and unnecessary practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Yore and the EndFGMToday coalition want state laws banning the practice as well.

“But in the meantime, until the federal measure becomes law, it is up to states to protect women and girls from FGM,” Yore said. “And if and when the federal measure is passed, it is still crucial for individual states to enact their own laws. State prosecutors rely on state laws to carry out justice against perpetrators, which is why it is vitally important that these remaining 15 states act swiftly to enact their own laws—preferably in 2020.”

The Alabama Legislature goes back into sessions on Tuesday, February 4, 2020. EndFGMToday is urging legislators to take up the cause of protecting girls from FGM in Alabama, by championing, introducing or co-sponsoring the legislation in 2020.

Currently, 35 states outlaw FGM, which leaves physical and emotional scars on female survivors for a lifetime, critics of the practice claim. However, the following states do not have laws against FGM, and therefore, could become destinations for “vacation cutting” for perpetrators: Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming.

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Yore said that the new federal bills were introduced with the goal of rectifying the shortcomings in a previous federal law that was ruled unconstitutional late last year. Since then, EndFGMToday has asserted many times that state laws criminalizing FGM are all the more crucial now.

Yore noted that female genital mutilation is recognized by both the World Health Organization and the United Nations as a human rights violation. Despite this, over 200 million women worldwide have been subjected to this cruel practice, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 500,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation in the United States.

The practice of cutting away a girl’s external genitalia severely limits her ability to enjoy sex. Proponents claim that this means that daughters are less likely to fornicate and that wives are less likely to commit adultery. Opponents argue that the practice is: cruel, inhumane, and barbaric.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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