Crowley, Jackson Lee Lead Letter Calling on Administration to Prioritize Fight Against FGM in United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

November 6, 2015
Press Release

House Members Send Letter Urging the U.S. Support a Global Indicator on FGM to Better Target Efforts to Help Eradicate Harmful Practice

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Reps. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), authors of the Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Act, announced they led a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power urging the U.S. to continue supporting the fight against FGM through the implementation of the recently adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

In September, the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes over a dozen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to improve the world over the next 15 years. One of these goals is to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls, and the goal explicitly sets a target to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.”

As the focus now turns to developing the specific indicators to monitor progress toward these targets, Crowley, Jackson Lee, and over a dozen members of Congress are calling on the U.S. to support a specific global indicator to measure the prevalence of FGM.

“A global indicator on FGM sets a standard of accountability, putting forward a framework to develop comprehensive strategies for monitoring and addressing FGM. It will not only send a powerful message, but also help drive resources and political efforts that are needed to end FGM –by both building upon efforts in countries that are making progress and increasing efforts in countries where more must be done,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter.

The proposed FGM indicator will provide clear data on where FGM happens and who is impacted, allowing eradication efforts to be focused and intensified. Having an indicator that directly highlights FGM will also put pressure on governments to develop comprehensive strategies to address this practice.

In addition, the letter stresses the importance that the FGM indicator be applied globally, and not just measure FGM in a select few countries, to send a clear message that girls everywhere should be kept safe.

The practice of FGM, defined by the World Health Organization as, “procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons,” is a harmful practice carried out on an estimated 125 million girls and women around the world. Despite being banned in the U.S. since 1996, according to one now-dated estimate, over 160,000 women and girls in the U.S. have either been, or at risk of being, subjected to FGM. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that acknowledged FGM as a violation of human rights and called for countries to develop national strategies to end FGM. The same year, the U.S. Congress adopted the language of Crowley’s The Girls Protection Act, closing a critical loophole in U.S. law and finally putting the law firmly on the side of girls.

Despite legal protections, and a commitment from the UN General Assembly, much more is needed to fully combat the practice. Earlier this year, Crowley and Jackson Lee introduced the Zero Tolerance for FGM Act, legislation that requires the federal government to undertake a national study to provide data on and insight into the prevalence of FGM in the U.S. and establish a multi-agency strategy to bring the practice to an end. Such a strategy could include the establishment of an emergency hotline for girls seeking assistance; the provision of resources to help those on the frontlines, such as educators, healthcare workers, and law enforcement; implementation of a public awareness campaign; and appropriate funding to support these efforts.

Efforts to help bring an end to FGM overseas not only protects girls in those countries, but also helps end conditions in places where American girls are sent and subjected to FGM.

The letter can be found here.