United States

United States: Protect Women and Girls from Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2015 Jul 20

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION NOW! << Click on this link to send all letters below online.

Please join Equality Now and Safe Hands for Girls in calling to protect at-risk women and girls in the U.S. and to ensure much-needed support and services for those living with the consequences of FGM.

  • Call on President Obama and all relevant federal agencies to ensure efforts to address FGM are sustainable in the long-term.
  • If you live in the United States, check whether your state has a law against FGM. If not, please contact your state representatives and urge them to enact laws and policies in line with the federal anti-FGM law. Find your state representatives here and use our letter or one of your own.
  • Know the facts - learn more about FGM in the U.S.
  • Help spread the word! Share this campaign and the following messages (you can also share messages from Equality Now’s Twitter and Facebook):

Letters should go to:

President Barack Obama
Office of the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
United States of America
Email: president@whitehouse.gov
Twitter: @BarackObama

Cc:
Tina Tchen, Executive Director, White House Council on Women and Girls (cwg@who.eop.gov)
Caroline “Carrie” Bettinger-Lopez, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women (vaw@ovp.eop.gov)
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services (Sylvia.Burwell@hhs.gov)
León Rodríguez, Director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security (Public.Engagement@uscis.dhs.gov)
Teresa McHenry, Chief, Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section, Department of Justice (teresa.mchenry@usdoj.gov)
Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education (arne.duncan@ed.gov)
Cathy Russell, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues (keittvp2@state.gov)

Letters: 

Dear President Obama,

I thank you for, and also urge you to continue, your work to protect women and girls in the U.S. who are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) or who are living with the consequences of FGM in the U.S. FGM—the cutting or removal of external female genitalia—violates girls’ and women’s rights to equality, life, security, dignity, and freedom from discrimination and torture. According to a 2015 Population Reference Bureau study, up to 507,000 girls and women in the U.S. have undergone or are at risk of being subjected to FGM.

The U.S. made several commitments to address FGM domestically and abroad, and U.S. laws and policies recognize FGM as a human rights violation and extreme form of violence against girls and women. I applaud your efforts and those of other U.S. agencies to live up to those commitments and to end FGM in the U.S. I also want to make sure that the work to protect at-risk women and girls continues during this Administration and beyond. Eliminating FGM in the U.S. requires a comprehensive government-wide strategy that will last beyond this administration. Each of the agencies working to address FGM also need sustainable Congressional funding in order to continue their efforts, including engaging with survivors, diaspora and local civil society organizations, as well as encouraging and supporting state efforts to end FGM at local levels across the U.S.

I urge you to ensure these efforts to protect at-risk women and girls will last beyond this administration by ensuring a comprehensive government-wide approach that includes continued engagement with survivors, diaspora and local civil society organizations as well as education and provision of support and services to survivors at federal, state and local levels; requesting funding from Congress to support these efforts; and also encouraging and supporting state efforts to end FGM at local levels.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,



Letter to state representatives:

Dear   ,

I urge you to stand up for women and girls in your state and ensure they are protected from female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM—the cutting or removal of external female genitalia—violates girls’ and women’s rights to equality, life, security, dignity, and freedom from discrimination and torture. According to a 2015 Population Reference Bureau study, up to 507,000 girls and women in the U.S. have undergone or are at risk of being subjected to FGM.

U.S. laws and policies recognize female genital mutilation (FGM) as a human rights violation and extreme form of violence against girls and women. Legislation criminalizing the practice as well as taking a child outside the country to perform it – a practice known as “vacation cutting” – coupled with education and awareness raising are critical in order to protect women and girls in the U.S. who are at risk of FGM or who are living with its consequences in the U.S.

Federal law prohibits performing FGM in the U.S. or vacation cutting. But currently only 24 states have a law against FGM, and not all of them have closed the loophole for “vacation cutting.” I call on you to review your state’s legislation to ensure your state’s law is in line with federal law and also that your state’s policies provide for education and awareness raising on FGM at the local level. If needed, please take the lead in drafting and introducing relevant legislation to strengthen your state’s laws and policies so that at-risk women and girls can access protections and support at local levels. This will send a strong message that your state is committed to protecting human rights and preventing violence against women and girls.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

The Immigration and Nationality Act

Section 309 of the United States’ Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. § 1409) confers citizenship on children of unmarried U.S. citizen fathers and noncitizen mothers born outside the U.S. only if they meet certain requirements, including their father’s guarantee of financial support and longer residency requirements than for U.S. citizen mothers.

Section 309. Children born out of wedlock.

(a) The provisions of paragraphs (c), (d), (e), and (g) of section 301 [granting United States citizenship] shall apply as of the date of birth to a person born out of wedlock if -

Note: 

The law cited above, codified at 8 U.S.C.§1409, was challenged in Miller v. Albright, 523 U.S. 420, but upheld on procedural grounds by the United States Supreme Court in 1998. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissenting opinion:

“The law at issue might have made custody or support the relevant criterion. Instead, it treats mothers one way, fathers another, shaping government policy to fit and reinforce the stereotype or historic pattern. . . . Even if one accepts at face value the Government's current rationale, it is surely based on generalizations (stereotypes) about the way women (or men) are . . . One can demur to the Government's observation that more United States citizen mothers of children born abroad out of wedlock actually raise their children than do United States citizen fathers of such children.  As Justice Breyer has elucidated, this observation does not justify distinctions between male and female United States citizens who take responsibility, or avoid responsibility, for raising their children.”

The law was again challenged before the United States Supreme Court in the case Nguyen v. INS, 533 U.S. 53 (2001), which held that the law does not violate the equal protection guarantee of the United States Constitution. In her dissenting opinion Justice O’Connor wrote “[i]ndeed, the majority’s discussion may itself simply reflect the stereotype of male irresponsibility that is no more a basis for the validity of the classification than are stereotypes about the ‘traditional’ behavior patterns of women.”

In June 2010, Equality Now, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations and institutions filed an amicus curiae brief at the United States Supreme Court challenging another section of this discriminatory statute which requires a longer residency period for fathers than mothers to pass their nationality to their children born abroad and out of wedlock. However, the U.S. Supreme Court in its decision of 13 June 2011 in Flores-Villar v. United States, reaffirmed, without any opinion or explanation, the decision in the lower court upholding these discriminatory provisions.

Update: 

In July 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decision in the case of Morales-Santana v. Lynch, challenging the Immigration and Nationality Act, found the sex discriminatory residency requirements for unmarried fathers to transfer their nationality to children born abroad that were at issue in the 2011 Flores-Villar case to be unconstitutional.  As a result, there is a split on the issue within the courts and it may come again before the US Supreme Court.  For further information, please see Prof. Martha Davis’ blog on the decision.

Contact Information: 

President Barack Obama
Office of the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Tel: +1 202 456 1111
Email: president@whitehouse.gov
Twitter: @BarackObama

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