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DOJ Roundtable Baltimore June 28, 2016

A week ago today, the U.S. Department of Justice co-sponsored a roundtable discussion with the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) of the U.S. Justice Department.  Meeting at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore, Maryland, the roundtable discussion was on the “hush-hush” topic of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

The U.S. Department of Justice has held several of such roundtable discussions in various cities in the United States.  On February 8th this year, they collaborated with the U.S. Department of Education in a roundtable discussion with representatives from various school districts.  The purpose of co-hosting these discussions is to mobilize the message of awareness that FGM/C in the United States is real and is against the law.  Furthermore, representatives from government agencies and non-profit organizations have the opportunity to network and share information.

Opening the discussion and addressing the packed room was Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division of the Human Rights & Special Prosecutions Section, Kathleen O’Connor.  She reminded the attendees of the number of FGM/C reported and recorded cases in the United States to date.  Deputy Chief O’Connor spoke of legal consequences of practicing FGM/C in the U.S.  In addition, Susan Masling, Attorney at the Justice Department spoke about the correlation of practicing FGM/C on U.S. soil and abroad.

The crowd learned that there have been 4000 new cases of female genital mutilation/cutting in the United Kingdom.  Although FGM/C has been unlawful since 1998, there are still some states in the U.S. where it is not banned on state level.  However there are state laws in Illinois, Georgia and other states which carry a ten-year imprisonment term.  There have been two federal cases in the state of California.

Among the many attendees were representatives from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, Baltimore County Public Schools, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Maryland Department of Human Resources, Equality Now, Georgetown University Global Health Initiatives, IAC-USA, Tahirih Justice Center, Montgomery County Crisis Center, Child Abuse Office of Baltimore, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation, to name only a few.

The Department of Justice wants the public to know that it is not the fault of a girl or woman who has undergone FGM/C.  She has not violated any U.S. laws by undergoing the procedure against her will.  If you know of anyone who is at risk of FGM/C or who has experienced it here in the U.S., please contact 1-800-994-9662.  Know that FGM/C is a form of child abuse in the United States.

Fatoumata, Kathleen OConnor and Francess June 28, 2016  Sando, Francess, Angela and Fatoumata - DOJ Roundtable June 28, 2016  Angela and Francess Cole at DOJ Roundtable Meeting June 28, 2016