Reps. Crowley and Bono Mack Introduce Legislation to Protect Girls from Female Genital Mutilation

April 27, 2010
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) announced the introduction of new, bipartisan legislation to crack down on the practice of female genital mutilation. The Girls Protection Act (H.R. 5137) would make it a federal crime to transport a minor outside the United States for the purpose of female genital mutilation (FGM).

“This is a matter of protecting fundamental human rights,” said Congressman Crowley. “No girl should be forced into this cruel procedure.  Most of Europe has already made it illegal to force minor girls abroad for FGM – it is time we do the same.”

“As a nation founded on the principles of freedom and liberty for all, it is clear that we must take a strong stand against this violent practice that is endangering young women around the world,” said Congresswoman Bono Mack.  “Under no circumstances should minor girls be forced abroad to undergo this cruel and intolerant procedure that tramples on their basic human rights.” 

The practice – which the World Health Organization defines as the “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia” – has been illegal in the United States since 1996.  Breaking the existing law or conspiring to do so constitutes a felony which could result in a prison sentence of up to 5 years.  Sadly, however, many minor girls are forcibly taken outside the United States for the purposes of carrying out FGM. 

The Girls Protection Act would extend our current laws to ensure that the same penalties that exist for domestic FGM apply to those involved in the transport of a minor abroad for the purpose of FGM.  H.R. 5137 is modeled after the laws governing those engaged in international child prostitution.  The bill was introduced on Monday, April 26 and was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.  It has the support of the Center for Battered Women’s Legal Services at Sanctuary for Families and EQUALITY NOW.

Congressman Crowley added, “Congresswoman Bono Mack and I are committed to getting the Girls Protection Act enacted into law and shining a light on FGM.  By raising awareness and adding legal protections to help address this brutal act, we hope to help put an end to it.”

BACKGROUND ON FGM:

According to the World Health Organization—

  • An estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.  
  • It is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15 years. 
  • FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
  • The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

Along with the United States, many countries have enacted specific laws making FGM illegal.  These include Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the UK.  Other countries, including France and Germany, apply existing child abuse provisions to outlaw the practice.  European countries acted in part after the European Parliament and Council of Europe urged countries to adopt legal procedures to prosecute and punish perpetrators of FGM.  Importantly, the vast majority of European countries have adopted extra-territorial provisions that can be used to combat the practice of carrying out FGM while on travel to countries where it is more widely practiced.  Norway was the first country to adopt a law applying criminal penalties to those who take minor girls outside the country for the purposes of FGM.

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