Thursday is Zero Tolerance Day for Female Genital Mutilation. Many may wonder why we need a day like this. We don’t want to think about this kind of horrific practice and assume that it has nothing to do with our country.
But that’s wrong. Female genital mutilation refers to the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for nonmedical reasons: a practice that has no health benefits and brings lifelong physical and psychological consequences. Female genital mutilation is violence against women at its worst.
More than 200 million young women around the world have been subjected to this violence. It is traumatic for young girls to undergo, it is not a valid religious practice, and it is simply an unacceptable violation of the rights of young women and girls.
Most cannot imagine it happening in the United States, but it does.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 507,000 women in the U.S. have experienced or are at risk of mutilation.
The federal government outlawed this heinous practice in 1996. However, in 2018, a U.S. district judge reviewing the charge that a Michigan doctor mutilated girls concluded the federal law was invalid, as it had no effect on interstate commerce. Today, our young women and girls are left without the robust protection they deserve. This has to change.
Fortunately, there are leaders who have made it a priority to demand protection and safety for those at risk of female genital mutilation. Sens. Marsha Blackburn, Joni Ernst, Cindy Hyde-Smith, Shelley Moore Capito, Deb Fisher, and Martha McSally introduced the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2019. This legislation would fix the law to make female genital mutilation a federal crime under several circumstances. These women leaders are standing up against this abhorrent practice. These women leaders won’t tolerate female genital mutilation.
Unfortunately, there are still 15 states in the U.S. without explicit protection for girls at risk of female genital mutilation. Minnesota state Sen. Mary Franson is working to offer protection to young women in Minnesota. According to Franson, “[Female genital mutilation] is gender violence, a women’s health issue, and a human rights issue. FGM has no place in the United States or in the world. A clear message needs to be sent that FGM will not be tolerated.”
Female genital mutilation activist Angela Peabody founded her Virginia organization, the Global Woman P.E.A.C.E Foundation, to raise awareness and educate the public about the threat of female genital mutilation. This organization runs a support group for survivors in the D.C. metro area. It trains law enforcement officers and school nurses, consistently working to offer compassionate assistance to survivors. Peabody won’t tolerate female genital mutilation in Virginia.
On this Zero Tolerance Day, we must prove that we will not tolerate female genital mutilation in any state, at any time.
Zero means zero. Enough is enough. End female genital mutilation.