Female Genital Mutilation Isn’t Just a Foreign Issue


An anti-FGM protest on Worldwide Day of Zero Tolerance for Feminine Genital Mutilation in February 2019. (Outlook India / Inventive Commons)

Texas Governor Greg Abbott waded into problematic territory when he called gender-affirming take care of transgender minors “mutilation” and “child abuse.” His remarks generated numerous protection and controversy, as he presumably knew they’d. The irresponsible and incorrect use of the time period “mutilation” takes consideration away from the precise, major problem of mutilation and chopping in the USA as we speak. 

Female genital mutilation/cutting, or FGM/C because it’s identified, is the partial or whole removing of exterior feminine genitalia for non-medical causes. Worldwide, greater than 200 million ladies and ladies have undergone the process. An estimated 3-4 million further persons are nonetheless in danger and one other 2 million circumstances are projected over the subsequent decade—an impact of the COVID-19 “shadow pandemic” of elevated abuse of girls and ladies. 

FGM/C can’t be dismissed as an archaic follow or a international downside. It’s at the moment practiced on each continent besides Antarctica—together with within the U.S.

The difficulty made information lately when Washington, D.C., Councilmember Charles Allen referred to as upon private and skilled testimony on FGM/C in a public hearing to think about D.C.’s proposed Female Genital Mutilation Prohibition Act of 2021. The invoice would prohibit FGM/C, broaden mandated reporting necessities, and supply grounds for civil actions. This invoice comes with urgency with D.C. ranking second within the nation for FGM/C prevalence. Reportedly, 51,000 women and girls have undergone the process or are nonetheless in danger for it within the District.  

Celebrating cultural values and heritage is essential, however dangerous traditions are supposed to change. There may be nothing celebratory or culturally worthwhile about controlling ladies and ladies’ sexuality and denying their autonomy over their very own our bodies.

It’s an enormous nationwide well being downside, and it’s getting worse. Greater than half a million ladies and ladies are both stated to be in danger or have undergone FGM/C within the U.S. And that determine that has reportedly tripled since 1997.  FGM/C can have devastating impacts on an individual together with extreme bleeding, issues in childbirth, lasting psychological trauma and even loss of life.

The follow has completely no well being advantages, solely well being dangers. Non secular leaders affirm that there are completely no non secular grounds for it both, despite the fact that faith is usually invoked to justify it. 

So why does this excessive type of gender-based violence and human rights violation persist? There is no such thing as a excuse, however there are a variety of reasons: preserving cultural identification and popularity, enhancing marriageability, controlling ladies’s sexuality, misguided beliefs about cleanliness. The follow has cultural significance for a lot of cultural, non secular and socio-economic teams. Celebrating cultural values and heritage is essential, however dangerous traditions are supposed to change. There may be nothing celebratory or culturally worthwhile about controlling ladies and ladies’ sexuality and denying their autonomy over their very own our bodies.

The truth that FGM/C is widespread within the U.S., and getting worse, illustrates a bigger development. The Inhabitants Institute’s 50 State Report Card on reproductive well being and rights, which has been issued for the final 10 years, posted its worst grades ever this yr—underscoring our rising failure to uphold the rights of girls and ladies. 

One of many issues we should do to cease the slide is align U.S. coverage with the worldwide movement against FGM/C, led by the ladies who’ve undergone it. Meaning enacting stronger laws in opposition to the follow, whereas empowering and defending those that have been subjected to FGM/C.

In 1996, Congress enacted a federal law making it unlawful to carry out FGM/C. Final yr, it was amended to additionally prohibit “trip chopping,” which includes transporting ladies and ladies from the U.S. to different international locations to endure the process. 

39 U.S. states have legal guidelines outlawing FGM/C, however 11 states and DC nonetheless don’t. Extra state laws is required to strengthen the authorized framework in opposition to FGM/C the place the federal legislation falls brief, because it did within the case of  United States v. Nagarwala. State legal guidelines can take a extra complete strategy, equipping group members and first responders with the instruments and training they should oppose FGM/C, acknowledge the indicators of these in danger, and intervene successfully.

It’s time for Washington, D.C., to enact its personal legislation in opposition to FGM/C to affix the states that outlaw the follow and affirm the advocates talking out in opposition to it. With out such a legislation, it’s in danger for turning into an area hub for FGM/C, the place ladies and ladies come from neighboring states to finish the process. A legislation explicitly banning FGM/C within the District would assist cease this site visitors from different states, give prosecutors the instruments they want, and defend ladies and ladies in danger. 

Stopping this egregious type of gender violence in our nation’s capital is an ethical crucial. Merely being in opposition to FGM/C isn’t sufficient; we should increase consciousness in our personal communities, sort out the issue at its root although training, and move stronger legal guidelines in opposition to the follow. 

Final month we noticed the forty seventh annual Worldwide Girls’s Day. Let’s not let one other one go by earlier than D.C. stands as much as finish FGM/C.

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