Help Us End Female Genital Mutilation In Massachusetts
Survivors of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) - which involves removing part or all of a girl's outer sexual organs and can result in physical complications, death in childbirth and lifelong trauma - warn that American girls are being taken out of the country to be cut and may be subjected to mutilation on US soil. (The Guardian May 14, 2014, FGM Survivors; "It happens on US soil, but it happens in secret", video available.)
FGM has been illegal in the US under federal law since 1996 but lack of prosecutions and desire to hold onto what is seen as a deep-rooted cultural practice means American girls are still being cut. The absence of widespread knowledge and open discussion about FGM places these girls, many of whom are sent, unaware, on vacation to be cut, at risk.
The World Health Organization estimates that about 140 million women and girls worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM and according to estimates from UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund at least 30 million girls under the age of 15 are at risk of being cut. (Sanctuary for Families 2013 "Female Genital Mutilation in the United States") The practice - most prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia and carried out between infancy and age 15 to maintain the purity of girls and acceptance for marriage - has spread to other parts of the world including the US, as immigrant populations have relocated. As of the 2000 US census, according to a report of the African Women's Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital, at least 228,000 American women and girls are at risk of being forced to undergo FGM.
FGM victim Jaha Dukureh, a 24 year old personal banker from Atlanta, GA, who, as an infant in Gambia, had her external genitalia removed and her vagina sewn shut until her wedding day when she was cut open, has organized a petition on change.org requesting President Obama to update information on FGM in the United States and devise a national action plan to end FGM in the US. Her petition has received 37,000 signatures, representing all 50 States, and the support of members of Congress. The change.org petition is now closed but you can view it and receive updates about it here.
In addition to data collection on the incidence of FGM, ending FGM in the US requires advocates, survivors and community service providers to come together. It also requires robust local laws because harm to children is a local concern and is most effectively handled at the local level. To date, only 22 states have enacted laws outlawing FGM. Massachusetts is not among them. Yet we know that girls at risk reside in Boston, Lawrence and Worcester.
Recently a Task Force of the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts has proposed legislation banning FGM in Massachusetts to be filed later this year. The bill makes FGM a crime, criminalizes transporting a child out of state for purposes of FGM, holds collaborators responsible, provides victim's remedies and mandates reporting under child abuse laws. We are asking for your support for this proposed legislation as well as your involvement in the community to end this violent practice. Please let us know if you would be willing to prepare a letter of support. Read the draft legislation here or read more about FGM by clicking on the drop-down menu to the left.