On April 20, 2023, Bill SSB 5453, was signed into law by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. The law prohibits people, including health care practitioners, from performing FGM/C on girls under 18, provides care for survivors and their families, and gives survivors the right to take private civil action against perpetrators. It also makes provisions for community-wide education about the harms of FGM/C and the new law, including targeting first responders with awareness raising about responsibilities and implementation.
The success has been possible because of the voices of survivors, advocates, and the over 270 letters sent by supporters asking the legislators to pass the bill that can help end FGM/C in Washington State.
FGM is recognized by the federal government as violence and a form of child abuse and internationally as a human rights violation, constituting torture and an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimated that 25,000 girls and women living in Washington State are living with or at risk of undergoing FGM; with the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue metro area ranked as the 5th highest metro area in the US in terms of the size of the FGM-affected community.
FGM has no health benefits, it only causes harm, and 40 U.S. states already have laws against it.
In January, Senate Bill 5453 was introduced in Washington State – one of the 10 states without a law against FGM. The Bill has subsequently been overwhelmingly passed by the Senate with a vote of 48-0 on 1st March. Now, the Bill just needs to be passed by the House and signed by the Governor to become law!
If passed, this bill would criminalize FGM in Washington, provide for community education on the subject, promote accountability of healthcare practitioners who perform FGM, and allow those who have been victims of FGM to seek a civil remedy.
In order to protect women and girls, every state needs to ban FGM and survivors are urging immediate action. Washington should be the next state to do so!
“This bill will reduce the burden on our health care system; when we don’t have any more girls being cut and subjected to the pain and trauma, we reduce the burden on our health care system. It will also make people like me better and more productive citizens of [Washington] state. I urge you today to support this bill. I don’t think any girl should be subject to this, and you have an obligation to protect children.”Absa Samba , Student and FGM survivor.
Join Equality Now and the Washington Coalition to End FGM/C in urgently calling on Washington state to pass a law protecting children from FGM in the state.
Take Action: Tell the Washington State Legislature to vote in favor of SB5453 and protect children in Washington from FGM!
Learn more: Check out our information page about FGM in the US, and read about the laws state-by-state in more detail. Visit the website of The U.S. End FGM/C Network or sign up to become a member of the Network.