Female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to become 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 violates the human rights of girls and women. However, the complex issue of the prevention of FGM in the United States remains a question. Most of the laws against FGM 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 lack of knowledge. The laws can only be effective if the general public, including law enforcement is fully knowledgeable on the practice of FGM. It is incumbent of activists, advocates and anti-FGM organizations to help educate the general public in the U.S. on the laws and practices of FGM.
According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the U.S. Congress passed several legislative measures relating to FGM in 1996. The practice of FGM 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 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, as well as on the legal consequences of FGM under criminal or child-protection statutes. The practice of female genital mutilation was then criminalized in the United States by Congress.
If you are reading this article, and you are unaware, the 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, no matter the type, degree, or severity, and no matter what the motivation for performing it. The U.S. Government understands that FGM may be carried out in accordance with traditional beliefs and as part of adulthood initiation rites. Nevertheless, the U.S. Government considers FGM to be a serious human rights abuse, and a form of gender-based violence and child abuse.