If you are an advocate against the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), and you reside in the Commonwealth of Virginia, you should know the name, Richard H. Black. Two years ago in 2017 Senator Richard H. Black introduced Senate Bill 1060 to his colleagues in the Virginia General Assembly. SB1060 was passed and signed to criminalize FGM in the Commonwealth of Virginia, making Virginia the 25th U.S. State with laws against FGM. However Senator Black was not content with the misdemeanor law, which made Virginia the only state in the U.S. with a misdemeanor penalty against FGM. All other states’ laws were felonies. Therefore a year later in 2018, he introduced another bill, Senate Bill 47 for an amendment to SB1060. SB47 was to amend the Virginia FGM law from a misdemeanor to a class 2 felony. There again, Senator Black was successful in getting SB47 unanimously passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Virginia Governor. As a result, Virginia now possesses one of the most stringent FGM laws in the U.S., with 20 years to life and up to $100,000 in fines. Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation (GWPF) worked with the Senator by testifying twice before Virginia Senate Committees last year.
Now it has been a year since that stringent law was passed in Virginia; and Senator Richard Black has yet again introduced a third FGM bill to the Virginia Senate. This time it has nothing to do with the criminalization of FGM; it has to do with education. Senate Bill 1159 was pre-filed on Wednesday, January 2, 2019 and offered a week later on January 9th. SB1159 proposes 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 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health and Education. The Sub-Committee voted on and unanimously passed SB1159 this past Wednesday. Of course the Bill will face additional committees for hearings and votes before it finally reaches the Governor’s desk, if it stays alive on the floor each time. GWPF has once again been asked, and is honored to work with Senator Black by testifying before the committees to help get SB1159 passed.
The Education Bill summarizes that any family life education curriculum offered in any elementary school, middle school, or high school to 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 is how the proposed amendment reads. Notice the italicized text in Section C, where the actual amendment is cited:
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 elementary school, 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.
When SB1159 is successfully passed and signed into law, the Commonwealth of Virginia will be the first U.S. state to have enacted such a FGM law. Senator Black will still not rest on that enactment. Speaking with Global Woman Newsletter last week, the Senator said that he wants to see FGM educational public service announcements on radio and television in his state. Senator Black is not just a lawmaker; he is an advocate against the practice of female genital mutilation. He said he sincerely cares about the little girls that are at risk of FGM, and the young survivors of it. He himself has 7 granddaughters, and he thinks of them when he hears about what the girls endure during FGM. He believes that education is the most effective mean of ending the practice of FGM.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Richard Black has served the Commonwealth of Virginia since 1998 when he was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates until 2006. Elected to the Virginia Senate in 2011, he has represented the 13th Senate District since 2012, encompassing parts of both Loudoun and Prince William Counties. Senator Black formally announced early in the year that he will not seek reelection when his Senate term is over at the end of 2019. While his constituents in the 13th District will miss him, Senator Black will be missed by those in the FGM community whose lives he has touched since 2017.
Senator Black freely shared his experiences as a United States Marine with Global Woman Newsletter. He enlisted in the Marines in 1963, and by the age of 21, he rose to second lieutenant and was among the Marines’ youngest aircraft carrier-qualified pilots. He flew 269 combat helicopter missions in Vietnam. Ground fire struck his aircraft on four different occasions. Black also engaged in bitter ground combat with the 1st Marine Regiment. His radiomen were killed and he was wounded during an attack against enemy positions across the Hoi An River. He was the only member of the Virginia General Assembly at the time, who held the Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in battle. He graduated with honors from the School of Business in 1973 and earned a law degree in 1976. He practiced law in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, before accepting a commission as a Major in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). He headed the Army’s Criminal Law Division at the Pentagon, and developed Executive Orders for the President’s signature, and laws that were enacted by Congress. Black advised senior government officials on issues of national significance, and testified before the U.S. Congress, representing the U.S. Army, on four occasions.
Although Virginians hate to see him permanently leave office, they will agree that Richard Black has well-served, not only Virginia but his country as well. Stay tuned for updates on SB1159, which could make history this year.
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