Reps. Crowley, Bono Mack Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Protect Girls from Female Genital Mutilation

Jun 23, 2011 Issues:

Washington, D.C. —Today, Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY) and Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) announced they have reintroduced The Girls Protection Act (H.R. 2221). Originally introduced in the 111th Congress, The Girls Protection Act would make it a federal crime to transport a minor outside the United States for the purpose of female genital mutilation (FGM). The bill has received bipartisan support, with ten Democrats and ten Republicans already signing on as original cosponsors. 

“This effort is about putting the law on the side of innocent girls. If one girl is subject to FGM, that is one too many,” said Congressman Crowley. “No girl should be forced to endure this practice that can have lasting, harmful effects – both physically and psychologically. I urge my colleagues in Congress to support this critical legislation and help put an end to FGM. At the same time, we need to balance stronger laws with better and more comprehensive prevention and community education efforts. I thank Congresswoman Bono Mack for being my partner in this effort.”

“This is an appalling practice which threatens the health, safety and future well-being of millions of children,” Congresswoman Bono Mack said. “It’s also a violation of basic human rights and constitutes discrimination against women. There is no place in society for this kind of treatment. I commend Congressman Crowley for fighting to protect children everywhere.”

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,” 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 five years.

Current law, however, does not protect minors who are forcibly taken outside the United States for the purposes of carrying out FGM. The Crowley-Bono Mack bill is modeled after U.S. laws that prevent international child trafficking. Specifically, The Girls Protection Act would extend 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. 

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, including: 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.