Passage of the SAFE Act by the U.S. House of Representatives marked a major victory for women and girls in the United States. Female genital mutilation (FGM)—typically thought to be a MENA practice—does, in reality, cross geographical and religious lines, spilling into the United States, Canada, and Western Europe. Worldwide, it’s estimated that 6,000 girls are subjected to the practice each day; here in America, the Centers for Disease Control estimates more than half a million women and girls have either undergone FGM or are at risk of having it done to them—all in the name of “honor,” to suppress sexual desire and therefore preserve their chastity.
Believed to be more cultural than religious, many of the reasons for FGM are based on patriarchy, on controlling young women’s sexuality and preserving the honor of the family. FGM is the cutting off or, in fewer cases, the mutilation of the external female genitalia and is performed on girls ranging in age from infancy to adolescence. It is unspeakably painful and causes a myriad of serious physical, emotional and psychological health problems. It can also lead to death due to blood loss or infection.
The new U. S. legislation triples the federal penalty for female genital mutilation from five to 15 years in prison and calls on states to implement reporting requirements for this heinous crime. After three people, including two doctors, were arrested in Michigan for mutilating the genitals of seven-year-old girls as part of their brand of religion, Rep. Dave Trott (R) of that state sponsored the bill.
“This appalling and brutal practice has no place in Southeast Michigan, or the United States, and today we make it clear to Americans and the rest of the world that these heinous acts will not be tolerated,” Rep. Trott posted on Facebook after the bill passed the House. The bill now goes to the Senate where advocates urge swift passage.
States that don’t currently have their own laws against the procedure are urged to pass them quickly. Human rights advocates also appeal to people who suspect FGM or have evidence of it to speak up, because it is a form of violence against children.
Women for Middle East HOPE and SAT-7 continue to publish materials and engage in conversations that increase awareness of FGM around the world. Partner with us in fighting this brutal practice and send your gift today!