Equality Now Commends Georgia Legislature on Passing Law Prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

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3 May 2005
Contact: Lakshmi Anantnarayan, 212-586-0906, lanant@equalitynow.org

Atlanta, Georgia, 5 May 2005 – Equality Now, an international human rights organization, welcomes the new law against FGM in Georgia. HB 10 will come into force at 11.30 am, on Thursday, May 5, 2005, at a Bill signing ceremony to be held in the Governor’s office at the State Capitol. Georgia joins sixteen other states in the country that have similar laws prohibiting FGM.

Discussions about the need for an anti-FGM law in Georgia began when the first documented case of FGM in the US was reported in 2003. Khalid Adem was charged in Atlanta in April 2003 with allegedly subjecting his young daughter to FGM.

FGM is a harmful traditional practice that affects an estimated 130 million women around the world causing lifelong physical and psychological harm. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimated in 1997 that over 168,000 girls and women living in the United States either were subjected to or are at risk of being subjected to FGM in practicing immigrant African communities in the U.S. in states including Georgia.

FGM is reportedly prevalent as an underground practice in the U.S. within immigrant communities that perform it. While a vibrant anti-FGM movement in different parts of Africa is making remarkable headway toward eradicating the practice, and several European countries with substantial immigrant populations have been quick to recognize and address the existence of the problem, the U.S. has yet to begin addressing this human rights violation in this country. In 1996, the passage of a federal law criminalizing FGM initiated considerable public dialogue about measures and the allocation of resources needed to address FGM in the US in a comprehensive way, but the issue has since lost momentum.

The Adem case and the anti-FGM law in Georgia again raise concerns about the lack of awareness of the harmful effects of FGM on women and girls and the need for systematic intervention to end this harmful practice in the U.S. Executive Director Taina Bien-Aimé hopes that, “the passage of the Georgia law will create renewed momentum for the local and national authorities to actively work to end FGM in the U.S.” Adds Safia Jama, a Somali activist who works with the refugee population in Atlanta: “We welcome the law and are thrilled that the state of Georgia has taken a preliminary step to protect girls in our communities from FGM.”

May 3, 2005 - 12:45