Vice Chair Crowley Statement Opposing Suggestions that Certain Types of Female Genital Mutilation be Allowed

February 23, 2016
Press Release

Crowley: “Mutilation is mutilation, no matter what you label it”

(Queens, N.Y.) – Today, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus and author of the Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Act, released the following statement in response to a paper published in the Journal on Medical Ethics this week suggesting that doctors should be permitted to perform a type of female genital mutilation (FGM), such as a small cut, or nick, as a “compromise.”

“I am extremely troubled by the suggestion that some sort of compromise can be reached on female genital mutilation. Mutilation is mutilation, no matter what you label it, and condoning FGM at any level of severity is a step backward in the fight against this harmful practice. What has been proposed is not compromise – it’s capitulation.

“FGM has been acknowledged worldwide as a violation of human rights, including by the United Nations. I have been proud to add my voice to those of survivors, health practitioners, and government leaders in these communities that have spoken out against FGM.

“FGM can be ended in a generation, but what we need is solutions, not distraction from the real and harmful effects of FGM. I urge the authors of this paper to reconsider their position, and instead use their voices to call for an end to FGM in all forms.”  

This is not the first time these suggestions have been made, and then discredited. In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement which said that a certain type of FGM – which it called a “prick” – could be conducted by doctors in the U.S. as a way of preventing girls from being taken abroad for the purposes of FGM. The Academy described its proposal as a “compromise” that could potentially prevent other types of FGM. Following outcry from Rep. Crowley and advocacy groups, the AAP reversed its decision only a month later.

Banned in the U.S. since 1996, the practice of FGM is 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.” This harmful practice is carried out on an estimated 125 million girls and women around the world. 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 that allowed families to transport minors overseas for the purposes of FGM and finally putting the law firmly on the side of girls.

In January, the Centers for Disease Control released its first study on FGM in nearly 20 years, which updated previous estimates and found that 513,000 women and girls live at risk of FGM in the U.S. Crowley and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), authors of the Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Act, urged the government to undertake such a study as part of their call on the federal government to develop a comprehensive plan to address FGM in the U.S. In addition to a national study, the legislation calls for establishing 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.