Virginia to Become 25th State in the U.S. to Criminalize FGM/C

The Virginia General Assembly last Wednesday unanimously passed legislation which would criminalize the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The bill is now before Virginia Governor, Terry McAuliffe for his signature.  Should Governor McAuliffe sign the bill into law, Virginia will become the 25th state in the United States to have laws against practicing FGM/C.

The summary of the bill passed last Wednesday (SB 1060) reads as follows:

Female genital mutilation criminal penalty and civil action makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor, for any person to knowingly circumcise, excise, or infibulate the labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris of a minor. The bill makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a minor to consent to such circumcision, excision, or infibulation.  The bill also makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor for any parent, guardian, or other person responsible for the care of a minor to knowingly remove or cause or permit the removal of such minor from the Commonwealth for the purposes of performing such circumcision, excision, or infibulation. The bill also provides a civil cause of action for any person injured by such circumcision, excision, or infibulation.  The bill also provides that any of these offenses shall be a separate and distinct offense and shall not preclude prosecution under any other statute.

A Class 1 Misdemeanor carries a jail term of one year and a $2,500 fine.  When initially written by Virginia Senator, Richard H. Black, the jail term was five years and a fine of up to $1 Million.  In an exclusive interview two weeks ago with the Senator, he told Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation why certain changes had been made to the initial bill. “This year, Virginia experienced a significant budget shortfall.  As a result, the criminal sanctions were revised dramatically to prevent the bill failing for lack of appropriation.  For the time being, we were forced to lower the criminal penalty to one year.  We will revisit this during next year’s session.  However the revision was skillfully drafted so that a female mutilator can be sentenced simultaneously for FGM and for other crimes as well.  I believe FGM could be simultaneously prosecuted as the crime of aggravated malicious wounding, since the child victim suffers permanent and significant physical impairment.”  He said, “FGM is “malicious” under Virginia precedent, which says, “Malice inheres in the doing of a wrongful act intentionally, or without just cause or excuse…”  ‘It may be inferred from acts and conduct which necessarily result in injury.’”  Hernandez v. Commonwealth, 15 VA.App. 626, 631, 426 S.E.2d 137, 140 (1993) (citations omitted).  Aggravated malicious wounding is a Class 2 felony, punishable by 20 years to life in prison and fine of up to $100,000.  For that reason, the way we drafted the bill, a prosecution for FGM can be combined with malicious wounding in a way that carries extremely severe penalties up to life in prison.”

Senator Black feels that one of the most important parts of the bill is where the girl has the right to sue anyone responsible for cutting her, or who gives consent to have her cut or mutilated.  “I consider this the most important part of the bill.  Since this hideous practice takes place in culturally closed communities, it is difficult to prosecute.”  Senator Black explained.   “However, anyone complicit in mutilating a child must worry about the very real possibility that the girl may seek to avenge herself years later, once she realizes the horror inflicted on her.  Parents who have this done may end up losing everything they own once a jury hears how they maimed and destroyed their daughter’s life.  And the person performing these actions may not only face multiple criminal charges but multiple civil lawsuits that lead to bankruptcy as well.”

According to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), close to 31,000 girls and women in Virginia are either at risk of undergoing FGM/C or have already experienced it.  Senator Black said that it is not his objective to simply pass the bill; instead he wants it to attack the cultural support for the practice.

If you are a resident of Virginia, and know of anyone with intentions of having his or her daughter experience FGM/C, you should share this story with them.  Urge them against it, and this is a good way to help end the practice of FGM/C in the U.S.

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