Perry Offers Bipartisan Legislation to End Female Genital Mutilation in US
Proposals come in wake of Shocking Court Dismissal of Federal Ban
Washington, February 6, 2019
Washington, D.C. – Congressman Scott Perry (R-PA) introduces new bipartisan legislation to help prevent the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the United States. The two bills, H.R. 959, the “Protect our Girls Act,” and H.R. 960, the “Empower Our Girls Act,” will close loopholes created by a recent federal court case that struck down the 1996 federal statute outlawing the practice Nationwide.
“Now’s the time to stand up for the voiceless and criminalize the horrific practice of Female Genital Mutilation. FGM has absolutely no place in America - or any other place in this world. FGM is an unconscionable, systematic form of abuse perpetuated against the youngest and most vulnerable among us and serves no medical purpose. The recent federal court ruling in Michigan has, once again, brought this issue to the forefront. As our society becomes more transient and diverse, renewed efforts to prevent this atrocity are necessary. In no uncertain terms, FGM must end immediately and those who perpetrate it will be brought to swift justice in the United States,” said Perry.
In 2017, federal prosecutors for the first time used the 1996 federal statute criminalizing the practice of FGM to bring charges against Doctors Fakhruddin Attar and Jumana Nagarwala of Livonia, Michigan. Attar and Nagarwala are accused of performing FGM on at least nine underage girls, ranging in ages from 8 to 13, from at least three states.
Nineteen months later, in November 2018, a federal judge in the Eastern District Court of Michigan ruled the 1996 federal statue unconstitutional and dismissed several charges against Attar, Nagarwala, and their co-conspirators.
Judge Bernard Freidman of the Eastern District Court of Michigan wrote, "Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit [female genital mutilation]…local criminal activity for the states to regulate, not Congress.”
In addition to the 1996 federal statute, the federal judge also dismissed charges of transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. He ruled that FGM did not meet the federal definition of a sexual activity.
In response to this ruling, Perry is offering proposals within federal jurisdiction to prevent FGM from continuing.
Perry’s first proposal, the Protect our Girls Act, expressly criminalizes the transport of a minor across state lines for the purpose of Female Genital Mutilation. The majority of the girls involved in the recent case were from Minnesota and Illinois, while the mutilation was performed in a clinic in Michigan. Perry’s legislation makes it explicit for future cases that in the United States, traveling or forcing a minor to travel across states lines for the purpose of FGM is a crime.
Perry’s second proposal, the Empower Our Girls Act, adds FGM to seven Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant programs, allowing the grants to be used to assist victims of this horrendous crime. The grants will focus on providing assistance in the criminal justice system and support from social service organizations. This is the first time that VAWA programs will address FGM, which allows victims of this unspeakable act to have the same opportunity to receive assistance as victims of other violent crimes. In addition, the proposal adds FGM as a separate crime under the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. By codifying the existence of this crime, the bill lays the foundation for collecting information on the crime as it occurs across the States. Reporting will assist in identifying other measures to bolster prevention and prosecution.
“We’ve received wide bipartisan support on these proposals, which is encouraging. I’m hopeful that with this renewed attention we can remove the shroud of secrecy surrounding this abuse and prevent it from continuing,” said Perry.
FGM is a deeply rooted cultural practice, with varying degrees of severity. It comprises all procedures that involved partial or total removal of the external genitalia, or other injury to the genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM is classified into four major types – which range from pricking and scraping, to the total removal of the clitoris and the narrowing of the vaginal opening.
Female Genital Mutilation has no health benefit for women and girls, as substantiated by the World Health Organization. Quite to the contrary, the procedure actually causes numerous physical complications, including difficulty urinating, difficulty passing menstrual flow, severe bleeding, scarring, myriad sexual problems, increased risk of childbirth complications, shock, and even death.
Around the world today, more than 200 million girls and women have been cut, with an additional 3 million annually estimated to be at risk. The practice is most common in Somalia, Guinea and Djibouti, with more than 90% of girls and women aged 15 to 49 in these countries being mutilated. Although primarily concentrated in 29 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, FGM is a global problem and also practiced in some communities in Latin America, Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
The international community widely recognizes FGM as a violation of the human rights of women and girls. Condemnation comes from organizations including the African Union, the European Union and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, as well as in three resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly.
The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation is Wednesday, February 6, 2019.