Vice Chair Crowley, Jackson Lee Introduce New Legislation Calling for a National Strategy to Protect Girls from Female Genital Mutilation

February 5, 2015
Press Release

On Eve of International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, Crowley and Jackson Lee Introduce Bill to Create Comprehensive Plan to Help Bring an End to Harmful Practice

Zero Tolerance for FGM Act Will Create Public Awareness Campaign, Emergency Hotline for At-Risk Girls

(Washington, D.C.) – On the eve of International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), today introduced new legislation to help bring an end to the harmful practice. The Zero Tolerance for FGM Act of 2015 would charge the federal government with drafting and implementing a national strategy to protect American girls from FGM. Crowley is the author of The Girls Protection Act, legislation that made it a federal crime to transport a minor outside the United States for the purpose of female genital mutilation (FGM).

“FGM isn’t an issue that only affects the far corners of the globe - it is a terrifying practice being faced by girls right here on our own soil,” said Rep. Joe Crowley. “The Girls Protection Act was a critical step in putting the law on the side of girls, but much more has to be done. This is a serious issue that deserves a serious effort, and a national strategy is the next step in helping to bring an end to FGM once and for all.”

“Lessons can be drawn from ongoing efforts to stop FGM, including in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, where the government, in collaboration with FGM survivors, is taking strong action. In order to improve efforts to protect these little girls, we must know the facts about FGM in the United States. This is just the beginning of our work here on the Hill by introducing this bill and we will not back down and we will not go away until girls are protected,” said Rep. Jackson Lee.

“Equality Now supports the Zero Tolerance for FGM Act of 2015 introduced by Congressman Crowley and Congresswoman Jackson Lee. This is just the type of initiative we need to ensure the US government produces a comprehensive and transparent plan to address FGM in the U.S. We thank them both for their continued support in protecting girls at risk and helping women and girls affected by FGM to get the services they need,” said Shelby Quast, Policy Director, Equality Now.

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 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. The Crowley-Jackson Lee legislation 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.

By creating a national strategy, the U.S. would join the ranks of countries like the United Kingdom and Italy that, over the past decade, have begun adopting and supporting vigorous, pro-active practices to help end FGM. 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. In June 2014, Crowley and Jackson Lee, along with 58 members of the House of Representatives, sent a bipartisan letter to multiple agencies in the federal government urging the establishment of a cross-agency plan to address FGM in the U.S.