Since the following Tuesday falls on July 4th, the Global Woman Newsletter is running this story on the last Tuesday of June.  The law against female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) in the Commonwealth of Virginia becomes effective on Saturday, July 1, 2017.

 

In January of this year, Virginia Senator Richard H. Black authored and introduced a Bill to the Virginia Senate to criminalize female genital mutilation and cutting.  In February, the Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously to criminalize the practice of FGM/C in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  A month later, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed the bill into law.

 

Senator Black told Global Woman Newsletter, “I knew nothing of female genital mutilation until reading of it recently.  I studied a few articles on it and was astounded at the brutality practiced on little girls from the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia.  It was stunning that these cruel, primitive practices were becoming entrenched in American communities.”

The following are clauses from the Bill of the FGM/C Virginia Law:

  1. Any person injured by an individual who engaged in conduct that is prohibited under § 18.2-51.7, whether or not the individual has been charged with or convicted of the alleged violation, may sue therefor and recover compensatory damages, punitive damages, and reasonable attorney fees and costs.
  2. Any person who knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates, in whole or in any part, the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  3. Any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a minor who consents to the circumcision, excision, or infibulation, in whole or in any part, of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of such minor is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  4. Any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a minor who knowingly removes or causes or permits the removal of such minor from the Commonwealth for the purposes of committing an offense under subsection A is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  5. A surgical operation is not a violation of this section if the operation is (i) necessary to the health of the person on whom it is performed and is performed by a person licensed in the place of its performance as a medical practitioner or (ii) performed on a person in labor who has just given birth and is performed for medical purposes connected with that labor or birth by a person licensed in the place it is performed as a medical practitioner, midwife, or person in training to become such a practitioner or midwife.

Although the law in Virginia against FGM/C is a Class A Misdemeanor, prosecutors in Virginia can decide to prosecute a perpetrator for malicious wounding instead of the Class A Misdemeanor, which is a felony in the Commonwealth.

Female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) continues to become the subject of conversation regarding types of gender based violence and women’s and girls’ health in the U.S.  Just two months ago in Michigan, two medical doctors were arrested by the FBI for practicing FGM/C in that state.  The common knowledge now around the U.S. and other parts of the world is that FGM/C violates the human rights of girls and women.  However, the complex issue of the prevention of FGM/C in the United States remains a question.  Most of the laws against FGM/C in the United States were put forth between 1996 and 1999.  In the past seventeen years, progress has been made in the U.S. but one of the problems has been the lack of knowledge.  The laws can only be effective if the general public, including law enforcement is fully knowledgeable on the practice of FGM/C.  It is incumbent of activists, advocates and anti-FGM/C organizations to help educate the general public in the U.S. on the laws and practices of FGM/C.

 

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the U.S. Congress passed several legislative measures relating to FGM/C in 1996.  The practice of FGM/C on a minor is defined as a federal criminal offense, unless necessary to protect a young girl’s health. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) compiled data on FGM/C and engaged in education and outreach to relevant U.S. communities.  The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was directed to provide information to all aliens issued U.S. visas on the health and psychological effects of FGM/C, as well as on the legal consequences of FGM/C under criminal or child-protection statutes.  The practice of female genital mutilation was then criminalized in the United States by Congress.

 

The Federal Law in the United States says that “whoever knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia majora or the labia minora of the clitoris of a girl who has not attained the age of 18 years shall be fined under the law or imprisoned for at least five years or both.”

 

The U.S. Government opposes FGM/C, no matter the type, degree, or severity, and no matter what the motivation for performing it. The U.S. Government understands that FGM/C may be carried out in accordance with traditional beliefs and as part of adulthood initiation rites. Nevertheless, the U.S. Government considers FGM/C to be a serious human rights abuse, and a form of gender-based violence and child abuse.

As a Virginia registered organization, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E Foundation congratulates Senator Black, the Virginia General Assembly and the Governor for passing this law to criminalize the practice of FGM/C.

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation has plans to make the entire Bill available on its website, and later to have it translated in languages such as Spanish, French, Arabic and Aramaic.

If you have questions or comments about this story and the law in Virginia, please send them to info@globalwomanpeacefoundation.org or call (703) 818-3787.