A Pennsylvania state rep has taken a hard stance on female genital mutilation (FGM). On Monday Tom Murt from Montgomery, Pennsylvania brought back a bill that pushes for new laws concerning FGM in the state. If this critical bill becomes law, it will now be a felony. In this single state, there are currently 19,000 women and children at risk of getting the procedure done.
The idea of FGM terrorizes many, and it is hard to understand how any parents could do this to their daughters. There is no real medical need to justify this painful procedure. It has become such a hot topic that many immigrant families must either travel to get it done or seek out less than professionals to perform the cutting. The act is brutal enough it was deemed a worldwide threat in 2008. That year, the World Health Authority passed a “…resolution about the elimination of this practice, emphasizing the need for concerted action from health care providers and law enforcement to stop this practice.”
The United Nations has also stepped forward to push for the practice to stop altogether. Many within the United States see this as only an issue for countries in Africa or the Middle East. This is not the case as many immigrants who come to America bring long-standing traditions like this with them. This ritual like ceremony is closely tied to the Islamic faith.
The procedure tied to FGM can vary from something done by a non-medical person in a private home to a Muslim doctor performing the ritual in an office setting. The more hidden the practice is, the more dangerous it becomes. There are even families that go as far as traveling outside of the United States to have it done.
The Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston has an African Women’s Health Center that is joining the efforts to end FGM in the United States and worldwide. According to the literature from Brigham, “…steeped in a strong cultural belief that views it as a rite of passage, FGC involves the removal of external genitalia in young girls when they are between the ages of five and 12, Some of the risks associated with the procedure include disability and premature death.”
Pennsylvania may not directly come to mind when one thinks about immigrants or even the horror associated with FGM. The issue is a problem in the state as they currently rank 11th for the total number of females presently at risk from possible exposure to FGM pressures.
The current push to make FGM a felony comes from the fact that within the state it is currently challenging to prosecute someone performing FGM due to the way many of the local laws are worded. It seems to make sense logically that cutting another person with a razor blade or other tool would be covered under an assault charge. This is not the case in the state since there needs to be ill intent tied to the action to warrant an assault charge.
“General aggravated assault laws are not sufficient to protect against FGM. Parents wrongly believe they are doing the best for their child by inflicting FGM on them. There is no malicious intent required to prosecute assault. Legislating against FGM in Pennsylvania would give prosecutors the ability to prosecute at the state level”
With malicious intent at the heart of the issue, this type of new legislation is critical in keeping young immigrant women and children safe. It is not enough to depend on international standards or even federal laws to keep them safe. The AHA Foundation sets the total amount of females currently at risk of FGM in the United States at 500,000. Of that group, about 166,000 are under the age of 18. Now, there are about 9,000 females in the state of Pennsylvania that are under the age of 18 and at risk.
Groups like the AHA Foundation continue to fight to end FGM, even though much of their work gets labeled as being Islamophobia. This is tied to the fact that the ritual linked to FGM is most often related to the Muslim faith. The AHA Foundation also works to stop honor killings and arranged marriages as well.