United States

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
29 November 2011
Contact:  WASHINGTON, DC:  Shelby Quast, 202-841-5630, squast@equalitynow.org
NEW YORK: Karen Asare, 212-586-0906, media@equalitynow.org
 

Urgent Alert: United States: Urge the U.S. House Of Representatives to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act before Congress adjourns

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 Dec 6

Equality Now commends the United States Senate on passage of The International Protecting Girls By Preventing Child Marriage Act Of 2009 and urges The U.S. House Of Representatives to pass this legislation

What You Can Do: 

As a part of efforts to curb child marriage, Equality Now urges its Women’s Action Network members in the U.S. to call upon their members of Congress to take urgent action to pass the legislation before Congress adjourns for the end of the year. Click here to find your Representative's contact information.

Letters: 

[add address of Congressperson]

Dear

I am writing to express my deep concern about the prevalence of child marriage in a number of countries around the world and the severe negative physical, emotional, psychological, educational and sexual implications of such marriage on girls, including death in some cases. 

Child marriages violate the human rights of girls by excluding them from decisions regarding the timing of marriage and choice of spouse.  Health-related impacts of early marriage and pregnancy according to the United Nations include higher risks of HIV infection, death in labor, septic abortion, still births, pregnancy-induced hypertension, puerperal sepsis and obstetric fistula.  Early marriage also jeopardizes girls’ right to formal education, which ends upon marriage.  Moreover, international research has shown that married girls have few social connections, restricted mobility, limited control over resources and little or no power in their new households, and that domestic violence is common in child marriages.

The International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S. 987/H.R. 2103) authorizes U.S. foreign assistance programs to prevent child marriage and provide educational and economic opportunities for girls around the world.  The legislation has unanimously passed through the Senate.  I urge you, as a member of Congress, to ensure that the U.S. House of Representatives will pass the legislation before Congress adjourns for the end of the year.

Please take action on this issue so that efforts to eradicate child marriages, which undermine our government’s efforts to empower women around the world, can be expanded and girls around the world are given a better chance to realize their potential.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,
 

U.S. Members Urgent Alert: Equality Now calls on the U.S. Senate to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 Aug 10

In November 2009, Equality Now issued an urgent alert calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (S. 987/H.R. 2103) (the “Act”). Major provisions of the Act were included in the State Department Reauthorization Bill which was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in June 2009. The Act has garnered a great deal of support in the Senate and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and we are hopeful that the legislation will be passed into law this year.

What You Can Do: 

As a part of efforts to curb child marriage, Equality Now urges its Women’s Action Network members in the U.S. to call upon their U.S. Senators to cosponsor the Act (S. 987/H.R.2103) and urge members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ensure that the Act is taken up by the Committee in September. Click here to find your Senators’ contact information. TAKE ACTION!

Sample letter

 

Urgent Alert: United States: Equality Now calls on the American Academy of Pediatrics to retract a portion of their policy statement endorsing Type (IV) female genital mutilation of female minors

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 Apr 29
Update Date: 
2010 May 27

On 26 April 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a “Policy Statement – Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors” (AAP Statement) that in effect promotes changes in US federal and state laws to “enable[] pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick” such as “pricking or incising the clitoral skin to satisfy cultural requirements.”

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the American Academy of Pediatrics asking it to retract the portions of the AAP Statement that in effect promote changes in US federal and state laws to enable physicians to “nick” girls’ genitalia. Urge the Academy to abide by the principles of gender equality in its practice and to recognize that human rights are universal and indivisible.

Letters should go to:

Errol R. Alden, M.D. FAAP
Executive Director/CEO, American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Blvd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1019
Phone: +1 847 434 7500
Fax: +1 847 434 8385
Email: ealden@aap.org

Please send copies of your letters to the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Board of Pediatrics at the addresses listed below:

Kevin B. Weiss, M.D., MPH
President and CEO, American Board of Medical Specialties
222 North LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60601
Phone: +1 312 436 2600
Fax: +1 312 436 2700
Email: kweiss@abms.org

Alan R. Cohen, M.D.
Chair, The American Board of Pediatrics
111 Silver Cedar Court
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Phone: +1 919 929 0461
Fax: +1 919 913 2070
Email: abpeds@abpeds.org

Please also ask your own doctor to take action on this issue.

 

Letters: 

Sample Letter

Errol R. Alden, M.D. FAAP
Executive Director/CEO, American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Blvd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1019

Dear Dr. Alden,

I am writing to express my deep concern about the American Academy of Pediatrics “Policy Statement–Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors” (AAP Statement) issued on April 26, 2010, that in effect promotes changes in US federal and state laws to “enable[] pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick” such as “pricking or incising the clitoral skin to satisfy cultural requirements.”

Female genital mutilation is a harmful traditional practice with serious health risks that affects up to 140 million women and girls around the world. It is acknowledged internationally as a human rights violation and an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. The WHO recognizes that pricking, piercing and incising of girls’ genitalia are forms of female genital mutilation (Type IV) with no health benefits and only harmful consequences and has strongly urged health professions to refrain from performing such procedures.

In light of all the work done by human rights groups, the United Nations and other organizations to eradicate all forms of FGM, as well as efforts in the United States to protect girls from this practice, the AAP Statement needs to be corrected. Instead of enabling pediatricians to reach out to families by offering “pricking or incising the clitoral skin to satisfy cultural requirements,” the AAP should steadily work to educate parents about the harmful effects of FGM and the absence of any medical benefits to the girl. I urge you to take action to retract the portions of the AAP Statement that appear to promote an amendment of laws in order to enable physicians to “nick” girls’ genitalia. I ask that the AAP recognize that human rights are universal and indivisible.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

CC: Kevin B. Weiss, M.D., President and CEO, American Board of Medical Specialties

Alan R. Cohen, M.D., Chair, The American Board of Pediatrics

Letter from Equality Now to the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding its policy on FGM

Errol R. Alden, M.D. FAAP
Executive Director/CEO, American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Blvd
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1019
Via fax: (847) 434-8385

Judith S. Palfrey, M.D. FAAP
President, American Academy of Pediatrics
300 Longwood Ave
Boston, MA 02115-5724
Via fax: (617) 730-0049

28 April 2010

Dear Dr. Alden and Dr. Palfrey,

I am writing on behalf of Equality Now, an international human rights organization that works for the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls worldwide. Issues of concern to Equality Now include all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls, including female genital mutilation (FGM). This letter expresses our deep concern regarding the American Academy of Pediatrics’ “Policy Statement – Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors,” (“the AAP Policy Statement”) released on April 26, 2010 suggesting changes in US federal and state laws to “enable[] pediatricians to reach out to families by offering a ritual nick” such as “pricking or incising the clitoral skin to satisfy cultural requirements.”

Equality Now has partnered for close to two decades with grassroots groups across Africa to end all forms of FGM and initiated in 2000 the Fund for Grassroots Activism to End FGM, counting 36 organizations in 19 African countries since the inception of the Fund. These and other groups working in their communities to end FGM all convey the clear message that FGM in all its forms, including “nicking” or “pricking”, is a human rights violation that must be eradicated through awareness raising, education, community involvement, and the enactment and enforcement of laws prohibiting this 5,000 year old harmful traditional practice. This vibrant grassroots movement that has been combating FGM also coordinates efforts with social service agencies and law enforcement in European and other Western countries to ensure that girls whose parents are from FGM-practicing communities are protected from harm in their new homelands and in cases where girls are at risk of FGM upon return to their parents’ countries. The AAP Policy Statement works against these goals.

International and African human rights instruments recognize that FGM is a harmful cultural practice that is steeped in inequality and is a form of gender-based violence and discrimination. The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which is a groundbreaking women’s rights legal instrument, requires African States to prohibit all forms of FGM, including specifically the medicalization of FGM. In the United States, on 26 April 2010 Congress introduced new legislation amending the 1996 federal law prohibiting FGM to make it illegal to transport girls out of the country for purposes of FGM, also known as the “vacation provision.” Such laws exist in most European countries and, as pointed out in the AAP Policy Statement, have been found to be effective in getting communities to abandon this practice.

In light of all the work done by human rights groups and United Nations and other agencies to eradicate all forms of FGM, as well as efforts in the United States to protect girls from this practice, the AAP Policy Statement stands out as lacking clarity on the issue and fails to recognize the established basic principles of girls’ rights as affirmed and reaffirmed by international human rights standards.

Harmful traditional practices, such as FGM, not only have no medical purpose, they contribute to the classification of girls as second-class citizens. Some other harmful traditional practices include early marriage, which occurs in many countries in which FGM is practiced, and, historically, foot binding in China. In comparison, the AAP’s recommendations to “nick” a girl’s clitoris would be the equivalent of suggesting marriage at 12 years old, instead of 8, or binding the girl’s toes, instead of her entire foot. A reduction in the severity of a human rights violation does not supplant the gravity of such a violation. In addition, contrary to the assertion in the AAP Policy Statement that the World Health Organization (WHO) is “silent on the pros and cons of pricking or minor incisions,” the WHO recognizes that pricking and piercing of girls’ genitalia are forms of FGM (Type IV) with no health benefits and only harmful consequences. The WHO, in fact, “strongly urges health professionals not to perform such procedures.”1 Furthermore, a United Nations interagency statement on “Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation” issued by 10 UN agencies in 2008 states “the guiding principles for considering genital practices as female genital mutilation should be those of human rights, including the rights to health, the rights of children and the right to non-discrimination on the basis of sex.” The AAP Policy Statement falls short of these standards.

Protecting girls in the United States from FGM requires community-based outreach, health and human rights education, affirmative engagement of social services, as well as supporting and implementing the FGM law. Equality Now therefore urges the AAP to retract the portions of its “Policy Statement–Ritual Genital Cutting of Female Minors” that call for an amendment of laws in order to enable physicians to “nick” girls’ genitalia. Doctors must instead be encouraged to identify and protect girls at risk of FGM by advising and referring their patients’ parents to not-for-profit or government agencies that can help parents understand the consequences of FGM.

We urge the AAP to abide by the principles of gender equality in their practice and to recognize that human rights always trump harmful practices performed under the guise of a particular culture, tradition or religion. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you further and look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Taina Bien-Aimé
Executive Director

CC: Kevin B. Weiss, M.D., MPH, President and CEO
American Board of Medical Specialties

Alan R. Cohen, M.D., Chair
James A. Stockman III, M.D., President and CEO
The American Board of Pediatrics

Larry C. Gilstrap, III, M.D., Executive Director
The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology

Gerald F. Joseph Jr., M.D., President
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Lamar S. McGinnis, M.D., President
American College of Surgeons

William D. Steers, M.D., President
American Board of Urology

Anton J. Bueschen, M.D., President
American Urological Association

1 http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/index.html

 

News Alert: United States: Equality Now Calls on the United States Senate to Pass the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2009 Nov 23

In November 2009, Equality Now issued Women’s Action 34.1 highlighting the case of Fawziya Abdullah Youssef who was married by her father to a 25-year-old man at age 11 and died in childbirth a year later after 3 days of painful labor and a stillbirth. The Action calls on the Government of Yemen to enforce the minimum age of marriage of 18 years in Yemen

What You Can Do: 

As a part of efforts to curb child marriage in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, Equality Now urges its Women’s Action Network members in the United States to call upon their U.S. Senators to cosponsor the Act (S. 987) and urge members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to ensure that provisions from the Act are included in the Senate version of the State Department Reauthorization Bill. Click here to find your Senators’ contact information. Click here to see a list of Senate Foreign Relations Committee members.

Letters: 

[add address of Senator]

Dear

I am writing to express my deep concern about the prevalence of child marriage in a number of countries around the world and the severe negative physical, emotional, psychological, educational and sexual implications of such marriage on girls. Child marriages violate the human rights of girls by excluding them from decisions regarding the timing of marriage and choice of spouse. Health-related impacts of early marriage and pregnancy according to the United Nations include higher risks of HIV infection, death in labor, septic abortion, still births, pregnancy-induced hypertension, puerperal sepsis and obstetric fistula. Early marriage also jeopardizes girls’ right to formal education, which ends upon marriage. Moreover, international research has shown that married girls have few social connections, restricted mobility, limited control over resources and little or no power in their new households, and that domestic violence is common in child marriages.

I am aware that provisions from the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act of 2009 (H.R. 2103 and S. 987) (the “Act”), which authorizes U.S. foreign assistance programs to prevent child marriage and provides educational and economic opportunities for girls around the world, were passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on 10 June 2009 as part of the State Department Reauthorization Bill. As a Senator, I urge you to cosponsor the Act (S. 987) and ensure that provisions from the Act are included in the Senate version of the State Department Reauthorization Bill. Please take action on this issue so that efforts to eradicate child marriages, which undermine our government’s efforts to empower women around the world, can be expanded and girls around the world are given a better chance to realize their potential.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely,

 

United States: Stop FGM in the United States: Support the Girls Protection Act

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 May 24

Female genital mutilation is a centuries-old harmful traditional practice that affects up to 140 million women and girls around the world. It is considered a severe human rights violation and the World Health Organization classifies the practice as a reflection of deep rooted inequality between the sexes and an extreme form of discrimination against women. FGM involves the removal of various parts of female genitalia and is carried out across Africa, some countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as in locations where FGM-practicing immigrants reside, including the United States.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to your representative urging them to support H.R. 5137. TAKE ACTION!

Letters: 

[add address]

Dear

I am writing to express my deep concern about the common situation where girls are taken to their countries of origin to be subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is a centuries-old harmful traditional practice that affects up to 140 million women and girls around the world. It is considered a severe human rights violation and the World Health Organization classifies the practice as a reflection of deep rooted inequality between the sexes and an extreme form of discrimination against women. FGM involves the removal of various parts of female genitalia and is carried out across Africa, some countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as in locations where FGM-practicing immigrants reside, including the United States.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 1997 that over 168,000 girls and women living in the US have either been, or are at risk of being, subjected to FGM. A 1996 federal law prohibiting the practice of FGM within the US did not address the risk of girls removed from the country, sometimes to their parents’ countries of origin, to be subjected to FGM.

I am aware that new legislation, the “Girls Protection Act” (H.R. 5137) co-sponsored by Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) aims to close this loophole and strengthen the 1996 federal law. The Crowley-Bono Mack extraterritoriality amendment or “vacation provision” introduced on 26 April 2010 would make it illegal to transport a minor girl living in the US out of the country for purposes of FGM. I urge you to support H.R. 5137 and take this critical step toward reaffirming that FGM, in all its forms, is a human rights violation. I also urge you to support the implementation of culturally sensitive awareness-raising, education and outreach programs to protect girls living in the US from FGM. I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely

 

United States: Sex Tourism: Big Apple Oriental Tours Acquitted of State Criminal Charges. Federal Action Needed to Prosecute G.F. Tours and other U.S.-Based Sex Tour Operators

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2009 May 1

In 1996, Equality Now launched a Women’s Action campaign calling for the prosecution of Big Apple Oriental Tours (BAOT). At the time, the company was advertising a twelve-day trip to the Philippines for sex tourists at the cost of $2,195, which included transportation, airfare, hotel room, and the ability of the sex tourist to “select your companion upon arrival in Angeles City” in a commercial sex transaction that would be brokered by a BAOT representative at the customer’s request.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to the new U.S. Attorney General and call on him to prosecute Gunter Frentz, the owner/operator of G.F. Tours, and other sex tour operators for knowingly and openly transporting individuals to other countries with the intent of engaging in prostitution in violation of the Mann Act and Travel Act. Reiterate that sex tourism is a criminal act that exploits and harms women, and very often children, while it supports a multi-billion dollar industry in human trafficking. Urge the Attorney General to clarify to all federal prosecutors that the Department of Justice policy is to prosecute U.S.-based sex tour operators.

Letters should be addressed to:

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530, USA
Fax: + 1 202-307-6777
E-mail: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov

Sample letter

Women's Action 12.1: December 1996
Women's Action 12.2: March 2004
Women's Action 12.3: October 2005
Women's Action 27.1: October 2005

 

Urgent Alert: United States: Urge your Senators and Congressperson to co-sponsor the International Violence Against Women Act

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2010 Jul 5
Update Date: 
2010 Nov 17
Update: 

*re-issued November 2010 for passage this year*

Equality Now supports the International Violence Against Women Act (HR 4594/S 2982) in order to achieve a more comprehensive, multi-sectoral, and coordinated response to violence against women that is not only more efficient, but also a wise investment. The I-VAWA would:

 

What You Can Do: 

TAKE ACTION HERE or use the sample letter below.

Letters: 

Dear [Senator][Representative]

I am writing to voice my support for the International Violence Against Women Act (HR 4594/ S 2982).

Globally, it is estimated that one out of every three women will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused over the course of her lifetime, with rates of domestic violence reaching up to 71% in some countries. Somewhere a woman is raped, beaten, killed by her husband, trafficked or forced to trade sex for food every day.

I believe that efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls should be a top priority in U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance programs. Not only is violence against women and girls a gross human rights violation, it is also a public health epidemic and a barrier to solving global challenges such as extreme poverty, HIV/AIDS, armed conflict and terrorism.

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) supports innovative programs, which have been shown to effectively decrease acts of violence and support survivors. Many of these programs help women and girls do things we so often take for granted: go to school, earn an income to take care of their families, collect food or water without fear of rape and bring perpetrators of abuse to justice. I-VAWA will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of existing U.S. foreign policy to end and respond to violence against women and girls around the world.

When implemented, I-VAWA would help put an end to the fear, pain and suffering experienced by countless women and girls globally. Please use your leadership role to help facilitate the progress of this important legislation through Congress.

I thank you for your attention.

Sincerely yours,

 

United States : G&F Tours--A Call for Law Enforcement to End Sex Tourism

Update: 
Not an update
Date: 
2005 Oct 1

"Do you need an innocent in need of seduction or a raw nymphomaniac whore? ... Do you like it nice or nasty?  … Maybe you've heard stories about sample blow jobs…?  It's all true!" (G&F Tours website)

What You Can Do: 

Please write to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. and call on him to prosecute Gunter Frentz, owner/operator of G&F Tours, for knowingly and openly transporting individuals to other countries with the intent that they will patronize prostitution in contravention of the Mann Act and the Travel Act.  Point out that effective measures to combat sex trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation require a focus on and suppression of the demand side of the industry, including sex tourism, as the U.S. Government has recognized in its Trafficking in Persons National Security Presidential Directive of 2003 and its annual Trafficking in Persons Report.  Urge the Attorney General to clarify to all federal prosecutors that the activities of sex tourism companies fall within and constitute a violation of federal law, and to ensure that the Department of Justice takes action to shut down all sex tour companies operating from the United States.  Please also write to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, let him know that G&F Tours has recently relocated to Forth Worth and ask him to take immediate action to shut down Gunter Frentz’s sex tour operation.

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530, USA
Fax: +1 202-307-6777
E-mail: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov

U.S. Attorney Richard B. Roper
U.S. Attorney's Office-North District of Texas
Dallas Division
Earle Cabell Federal Building
1100 Commerce Street, Suite 300
Dallas, Texas 75242-1699, USA
Fax: +1 214-767-2898

Hawaii: Legislation Passed to End Sex Tourism and Hold Sex Tour Operators Accountable

Update: 
UPDATE
Date: 
2004 May 1

In an unprecedented move to combat sex tourism, the Hawaii State legislature passed HB 2020, an Act relating to prostitution, which the Lt. Governor signed into law, as Act 82, on May 19, 2004. The Act makes it a felony offense, with a sentence of up to five years in prison, to sell or offer to sell travel services for the purpose of engaging in prostitution and authorizes suspension or revocation of a travel agency registration for engaging in these acts.

What You Can Do: 

Please write to Hawaii State Representative Marilyn Lee, the main sponsor of Act 82. Congratulate her on the success of her initiative to facilitate the prosecution of sex tour operators. Urge her to encourage legislators in other states to do the same. Please also encourage your own legislators to pass a law specifically criminalizing the activities of sex tour operators using Hawaii’s legislation as an example. The full text of the legislation is available on-line.

State Representative Marilyn B. Lee
Hawaii State Capitol, Room 421
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
USA
Tel: +1 808-586-9460
Fax: +1 808-586-9466
E-mail: replee@Capitol.hawaii.gov

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