Historic US prosecution spurs Michigan to take steps to enact anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) laws
UPDATE: In July, Michigan became the 26th state to enact anti-FGM laws! Among other things, the new laws also increase the civil and criminal statute of limitations for survivors, strip medical licenses from providers convicted of performing FGM and calls for a statewide FGM educational outreach program.
As of 22 June, six perpetrators have been charged in this case.
As an international human rights organization that promotes and protects the rights of women and girls around the world, Equality Now is encouraged by Michigan’s efforts to enact anti-female genital mutilation (FGM) legislation that will bring its law in line with federal law and policies. Ending this human rights violation, the cutting or removal of external female genitalia for nonmedical reasons, has been one of Equality Now’s core focus areas since 1993. FGM violates girls’ and women’s rights to equality, life, security, dignity and the right to be free from discrimination and torture.
We are happy to see states passing laws to protect girls from all forms of violence, including FGM. Equally important are the policies and procedures around implementation of the law, which include public awareness raising, training, education among health care providers, child protection officers, social workers, teachers and engagement with community organizations. Laws are not only for prosecution but can be strong tools for preventing FGM and accelerating change around social norms. - Shelby Quast, Americas Director
FGM is a global problem – not confined to a handful of regions or communities, but happening on every continent. It is a human rights violation that cuts across borders, religions, and cultures. UNICEF reports that over 200 million girls alive today living in 30 countries have undergone FGM, but we know the numbers are greater and reach far beyond those countries where it is currently measured. In fact, due in part to its prevalence and to advocates’ efforts to put an end to it, the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015 by 193 United Nations Member States, include in Goal 5 a target to eliminate all harmful practices, including FGM, by 2030.
In the US, FGM happens in urban centers like Detroit, MI and mid-western communities alike. To get a clearer idea of how pervasive FGM is in the US, Equality Now and Safe Hands for Girls, an Atlanta-based anti-FGM organization, called on the government to gather data on FGM in the US. A subsequent 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study estimated that 513,000 girls and women in the US have been subjected to or are at risk of being subjected to FGM. Federal law prohibits performing FGM in the US or taking a child outside the country to perform it. Today, 25 US states have enacted state laws against FGM, but that might soon change. States like Massachusetts have renewed their efforts to ban FGM and Texas is looking to not only ban FGM from being performed in the state, but also to ban girls from being taken outside state lines for the same purpose.
US policies already recognize FGM as a human rights violation, an extreme form of violence against girls and women, and child abuse. Equality Now believes every state in the U.S. should do the same and have laws that clearly protect all girls from violence, including FGM.
Visit equalitynow.org/issues/end-female-genital-mutilation to learn more about FGM in the US and abroad.