Just a few days ago, the new government in Sudan outlawed the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).  FGM is the partial or total removal of female genitalia for nonmedical purposes, a practice that has no health benefits and lifelong physical and psychological consequences. This new law will help spare young women in Sudan from this suffering.

The United Nations estimates that nearly nine in ten Sudanese women have been subjected to the practice of FGM.  Many African countries practice FGM, along with countries in Asia and the Middle East as well.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 513,000 women and girls in the United States have experienced or at risk of female genital mutilation. It might be shocking to learn, but this practice occurs right here at home.

FGM is traumatic for young girls to undergo, and it is not a religious practice. It is simply an intolerable violation of the human rights of young women and girls. Clearly, this is violence against women at its worst and it needs to be outlawed.

The majority of our states have outlawed FGM. Kentucky became the thirty-eighth state to pass comprehensive legislation against FGM last month.  However, there are still twelve states without laws on the books protecting the young women and girls in their state from this practice.  This needs to change.

Laws against this horrific practice offer a level of protection to young women and girls.  Laws hold perpetrators accountable and convey a governmental message there will be consequences for criminal behavior. However, laws on the books don’t guarantee safety for those who are vulnerable.  

FGM is rooted in deep cultural traditions and is passed on through generations.   Many communities around the world see this as a rite of passage. To truly keep young women safe, awareness about the harm of FGM needs to be spread.

As awareness is increased in diverse communities around the globe, attitudes can change. As the practice is discussed more and more openly, education about its harm spreads. It is a topic that needs to continue to stay in the spotlight.

The law passed in Sudan marks an important milestone for the women in Sudan. It should be celebrated by women in Sudan, and in every country around the world.  However, the fight against FGM is not over.