The Virginia Senate introduced a Bill last week on female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), authored by Virginia Senator Richard H. Black. The Bill summarizes, “female genital mutilation; criminal penalty and civil action. Makes it a felony with a punishment of 20 years to life, five of which shall be a mandatory minimum, 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 2 felony for any parent or guardian charged with the care of a minor to consent to such circumcision, excision, or infibulation. The bill also provides a civil cause of action for any person injured by such circumcision, excision, or infibulation”.
Female genital mutilation/cutting continues to be the subject of conversation regarding types of gender based violence and women’s and girls’ health in the U.S. 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.
After the Federal Law against FGM/C was passed in 1996, several states in the U.S. passed laws against the practice of FGM/C. Among them were California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhodes Island, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. However the Commonwealth of Virginia was not among the listed states. Should the Virginia Senate vote to pass the Bill put forth last week by Senator Black, they will be joining those states that already have laws against the practice of FGM/C in the U.S.
Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Tennessee prohibit the practice of FGM/C on adult women as well as on females under the age of 18. The statutes enacted in California, Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Oregon and West Virginia explicitly address the conduct of a parent or guardian who permits or allows FGM/C to be performed on her or his daughter. In Nevada, a person may be prosecuted for the removal of a child from that state for the purpose of performing FGM/C. California, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, and Oregon have enacted legislation addressing the need for culturally sensitive education and outreach to the relevant communities.
Although progress has been made in the U.S. however 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, especially in communities.
If you are reading this article, and you are unaware, 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.
Senator Black is to be applauded for the authoring and presentation of this Bill. It is hoped by many Virginia constituents that the Virginia Senate will vote to pass the Bill and make the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting in the Commonwealth of Virginia illegal.
Note: Next week we will have An Exclusive with Julie Taitt, an Advisory Council member of Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation