Today, Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (CA-45) and Democrat Representative Joe Crowley of New York, authors of legislation that would make it a federal crime to transport a minor outside the United States for the purpose of female genital mutilation (FGM), sent a letter to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton urging the United States to support a United National General Assembly (UNGA) resolution seeking to end the practice of FGM worldwide. Today marks International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation.
"A UNGA resolution calling on all countries to ban FGM in their domestic laws and encouraging support for critical educational and community-based outreach efforts to prevent FGM would help end the practice of minors being transported abroad for the purposes of FGM. The United States must lend its name to this effort and press for passage of such a resolution. In doing so, the global community will send a strong and unified message that FGM is harmful to women and girls and an unacceptable practice in the 21st century," write the lawmakers in the letter.
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," has been illegal in the United States since 1996. Breaking the existing law or conspiring to do so constitutes a felony which could result in a prison sentence of up to five years.
Current law, however, does not protect minors who are forcibly taken outside the United States for the purposes of carrying out FGM. In 2010, Crowley and Bono Mack introduced The Girls Protection Act, legislation that would expand current laws to ensure that the same penalties that exist for domestic FGM apply to those involved in the transport of a minor abroad for the purpose of FGM. The Girls Protection Act is modeled partly on U.S. laws that prevent international child trafficking. Crowley and Bono Mack reintroduced their legislation in June, 2011.
The World Health Organization estimates that 130-140 million women and girls have been subjected to FGM, and up to two million girls are threatened with FGM each year.