FGM Education Bill Is Successful In Virginia General Assembly

Last month, a Bill was introduced to the Virginia Senate by one of its senators, Richard Black.  The purpose of the bill, Senate Bill 1159 is to have the already existing Family Life Education curriculum amended to include female genital mutilation (FGM).  SB1159 was pre-filed on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 and offered a week later on January 9th.  It proposed an amendment to the § 22.1-207.1:1 of the Code of Virginia relating to public schools, family life education and female genital mutilation.  SB1159 was referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Education.  The Sub-Committee voted on and unanimously passed SB1159 in mid-January.  Then the Bill found its way to the full Senate Committee, where it again passed unanimously.  GWPF was present and watched with anxiety, as the Bill soaked up all ‘yeas’ and no ‘nays’ on the Senate floor.  The Bill moved over to the Virginia General Assembly for votes.  On Wednesday, January 30th GWPF did not attend the hearing, but everyone waited eagerly for the results.  At 4:00pm Eastern Standard Time, the Virginia General Assembly generously voted to have the Family Life Education Curriculum amended for FGM to be included in all Middle and High Schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  The initial Bill had included elementary schools but the General Assembly voted for elementary students to not be required to study female genital mutilation.

The reaction from a Board Member of GWPF is, “We will take middle and high schools for now.  It is a great start to the school children learning about such heinous practice.”  Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation has been advocating for several years to have FGM included in the schools’ curriculum.  In 2014, they made a trip to Richmond and addressed the Virginia Board of Education on FGM, with no concrete results.  They had not given up but they continued to hit a brick wall each time they had attempted to engage the Virginia Education Department.  GWPF had expressed their failed attempts to engage the Department of Education to Senator Black more than a year ago.  He had not made any promises at the time, but he obviously did not forget.

With SB1159 headed to the Virginia Governor’s desk for signature, it is hopeful that the Bill will be signed into law this July.  GWPF and its supporters and partners applaud the action of Senator Black and his colleagues in both the Senate and General Assembly for putting forth and passing this crucial Bill.  Global Woman Newsletter had stated in an earlier edition that Virginia would become the very first state in the U.S. to include FGM in its curriculum.  However someone pointed out that New Jersey schools already include FGM in their curriculum.  Global Woman Newsletter has contacted the New Jersey Department of Education to verify that, but GWN has not been successful in confirming it with the New Jersey Department of Education at the time this article was finalized.  GWN will share with its readers once it obtains confirmation from the New Jersey Department of Education.         

The amended Virginia Education Bill summarizes that any family life education curriculum offered in any middle school, or high school should incorporate age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on the harmful physical and emotional effects of female genital mutilation, associated criminal penalties, and the rights of the victim including any civil action.

Here are the details of SB1159:

A. Any family life education curriculum offered by a local school division shall require the Standards of Learning objectives related to dating violence and the characteristics of abusive relationships to be taught at least once in middle school and at least twice in high school, as described in the Board of Education’s family life education guidelines.

B. Any high school family life education curriculum offered by a local school division shall incorporate age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on the prevention of dating violence, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, including sexual harassment using electronic means, and sexual violence and may incorporate age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on the law and meaning of consent. Such age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on the prevention of sexual violence may include instruction that increases student awareness of the fact that consent is required before sexual activity.

C. Any family life education curriculum offered in any middle school, or high school shall incorporate age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on (i) the importance of the personal privacy and personal boundaries of other individuals and tools for a student to use to ensure that he respects the personal privacy and personal boundaries of other individuals and (ii) the harmful physical and emotional effects of female genital mutilation; associated criminal penalties; and the rights of the victim, including any civil action pursuant to § 8.01-42.5.

D. Any family life education curriculum offered by a local school division may incorporate age-appropriate elements of effective and evidence-based programs on the prevention, recognition, and awareness of child abduction, child abuse, child sexual exploitation, and child sexual abuse.

It is hopeful that other states in the U.S. will follow this example from the Commonwealth of Virginia to include FGM in their Family Life Education.  Educating all children about FGM and the possible imminence of it among them is one of the crucial means of prevention.

Comments and questions to info@globalwomanpeacefoundation.org or call (703) 818-3787

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