I am writing to express my deep concern about the common situation where girls are taken from the U.S. to their parents’ countries of origin to be subjected to Female Genital Mutilation. FGM is considered a severe human rights violation and the World Health Organization classifies the practice as a reflection of deep rooted inequality between the sexes and an extreme form of discrimination against women.
The WHO estimates that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to FGM, which takes place throughout Africa, certain countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as in locations where FGM-practicing immigrants reside, such as the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. According to an analysis of 2000 U.S. census data conducted by the African Women’s Health Center (AWHC) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, approximately 228,000 women and girls have undergone or are at risk for FGM. The data also states that from 1990 to 2000, the number of women who are at risk for FGM grew by approximately 35 percent in this country. A 1996 federal law prohibiting the practice of FGM within the US did not address the risk of girls removed from the country, sometimes to their parents’ countries of origin, to be subjected to FGM.
I am aware that new legislation, the “Girls Protection Act of 2011” (S. 1919) introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) aims to close this loophole and strengthen the 1996 federal law. This legislation would make it illegal to transport a minor girl living in the US out of the country for purposes of FGM. As my United States Senator, I urge you to cosponsor S. 1919 and take this critical step toward reaffirming that FGM, in all its forms, is a human rights violation. I also urge you to support the implementation of culturally sensitive awareness-raising, education and outreach programs to protect girls living in the US from FGM.
I thank you for your attention.