Girls in U.S. at Risk of Female Genital Mutilation will be Further Protected with Extraterritoriality Legislation

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29 November 2011
Contact:  WASHINGTON, DC:  Shelby Quast, 202-841-5630,
NEW YORK: Karen Asare, 212-586-0906,

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduces the Girls Protection Act of 2011 on International Women Human Rights Defenders Day

Washington, DC and New York, NY
- Equality Now welcomes today’s announcement that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced a bill aimed at strengthening the 1996 federal law banning female genital mutilation (FGM). The Reid extraterritoriality legislation or “vacation provision” would prohibit the act of transporting a girl abroad in order to subject her to FGM and is a companion measure to the legislation introduced by Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) in 2010. Often done during school breaks in their parents’ country of origin, the practice of taking girls overseas is commonly used to circumvent the law. Currently only Florida, Georgia and Reid’s own state of Nevada have vacation provision laws making this practice a felony. Equality Now has been working closely with Senator Reid and Representative Crowley’s offices to close this loophole and wholly embrace legislation that will send a clear message to all that FGM is a criminal act that carries serious consequences.

“FGM is not a religious issue, nor is it restricted to one ethnic group; it is a form of gender-based violence, perpetrated on girls and women,” say’s Equality Now’s Global Director Yasmeen Hassan. “We applaud Senator Reid for introducing this legislation on International Human Rights Defenders’ Day and reaffirming that FGM, in all its forms, is a human rights violation.”

FGM is a centuries-old traditional practice that involves the partial or complete removal of female genitalia and causes lifelong physical and psychological harm. The WHO estimates that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM, which takes place throughout Africa, certain countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as in locations where FGM-practicing immigrants reside, such as the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. According to an analysis of 2000 U.S. census data conducted by the African Women’s Health Center (AWHC) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, approximately 228,000 women and girls have undergone or are at risk for FGM. The data also states that from 1990 to 2000, the number of women who are at risk for FGM grew by approximately 35 percent in this country.

In many African countries where this harmful cultural practice is carried out, vibrant anti-FGM movements are making remarkable headway toward eradicating FGM through awareness-raising, education and advocacy within their communities. In addition, several European countries have recognized the importance of addressing this form of gender-based violence and discrimination by enacting strong laws and policies to protect girls from FGM in all its forms. Prior to the Reid amendment, the United States has been slow to remedy this ambiguity in the 1996 law, resulting in its lessened impact. Equality Now strongly urges the public to support this legislation.

Learn more about FGM in the U.S.

November 29, 2011 - 17:15