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Alabama among 15 states lacking female genital mutilation laws

Jessa Reid Bolling

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As of this year, 35 states have implemented legislation to criminalize female genital mutilation. However, Alabama is among the remaining 15 states to have no laws criminalizing the practice.

Female genital mutilation, which is defined as a procedure to “remove, cut, circumcise, excise, mutilate, infibulate or reinfibulate” any part of the genitals for non-medical purposes on females under the age of 19.

As the year comes to a close, the EndFGMToday initiative calls again for these remaining states to outlaw the procedure in 2020, as well as pass federal legislation against the practice.

The 15 states include Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming. 

The Alabama House of Representatives adjourned early this year without taking action on HB421, a bill that would have made performing FGM on a female younger than 19 a Class B felony and charged parents or guardians who knowingly allow, authorize or direct another to perform FGM with a Class B felony.

The practice of FGM was declared a felony in 1996 under the Female Genital Mutilation Act. However, that law was deemed unconstitutional last year by a federal judge, leaving states to decide on regulating the practice. 

Elizabeth Yore, child welfare advocate and head of EndFGMToday, said that since the federal law criminalizing FGM was ruled unconstitutional, it is crucial for states to pass laws to protect women and girls from being subjected to the practice. 

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The effects of FGM can go beyond physical complications. According to the World Health Organization, proper anesthesia is rarely used when FGM is performed, meaning the experience can leave a victim with significant psychological effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders and depression.

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“This year was an important one for new state FGM laws, and while 35 states have enacted their own laws—some of them the toughest in the country—15 states do not yet criminalize this terrible form of child abuse,” Yore said in a statement. “We again implore every state in the nation to start the process to introduce FGM criminalization bills or cross the finish line on this important work in 2020. Millions of women and girls are counting on state legislators. Step up and remove your state’s name from this terrible ‘Wall of Shame!’”

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 200 million women and girls worldwide have been subjected to FGM. The Center for Disease Control reported in 2012 that an estimated over 500,000 women and girls in the United States are at risk of being victims of the practice.

 

Jessa Reid Bolling is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter and graduate of The University of Alabama with a B.A. in journalism and political science. You can email her at [email protected] or reach her via Twitter.

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