April 26, 2010
(Washington, DC) – On April 26, 2010, Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) announced the introduction of new, bipartisan legislation to crack down on the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM refers to removal of all or part of the female genitalia The Girls Protection Act (H.R. 5137) would make it a federal crime to transport a minor outside the United States for the purpose of FGM.
FGM has been illegal in the United States since 1996. Breaking the existing law or conspiring to do so constitutes a felony which could result in a prison sentence of up to 5 years. Sadly, however, many minor girls are forcibly taken outside the United States for the purposes of carrying out FGM.
Despite global efforts to promote abandonment of the practice, FGM remains widespread in many countries including Africa and Western Asia. It has spread to other parts of the world, including Europe and North America, where some immigrant families have settled.
FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
It is estimated that globally 130 million girls and women alive today have undergone genital cutting, with at least 2 million females each year —6,000 each day—undergoing the procedure.
UNFPA and UNICEF, through a joint program launched in 2007, are working to end to this persistent violation of the human rights of girls and women globally. FGM is considered to be a right of passage to adulthood; UNFPA addresses FGM in a holistic manner by funding and implementing culturally sensitive programs, including alternative rights of passage.
The Girls Protection Act would extend current U.S. laws to ensure that the same penalties that exist for domestic FGM apply to those involved in the transport of a minor abroad for the purpose of FGM. H.R. 5137 is modeled after the laws governing those engaged in international child prostitution.
“Female genital cutting is a violation of women’s rights that transcends many level,” says Anika Rahman. “I applaud our members of Congress for prioritizing this legislation to further protect the health and dignity of girls.”
“This is a matter of protecting fundamental human rights,” said Congressman Crowley. “No girl should be forced into this cruel procedure. Most of Europe has already made it illegal to force minor girls abroad for FGM – it is time we do the same.”