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US proposes law to hinder genital mutilation

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Summary of story from Feminist News, December 2, 2011

The US government has proposed legislation making it illegal to transport girls and women out of the country to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM).

The bill was announced by Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who said an estimated 200,000 women living in the USA have been subject to, or are at risk of, FGM.

FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of external genitalia, is practised in some cultures as a way of reducing women’s sexual desire and symbolically readying them for marriage.

The practice has been illegal in the USA since 1996, is widely regarded as a violation of human rights and has been shown to increase the risk of HIV transmission and infant and maternal mortality rates.

Under the proposed legislation, those violating the law could receive fines or up to five years in jail.

  1. As much as I agree that FGM is an unspeakable Human Rights abuse, outlawing the practice and the transport to countries where it can take place will do very little to further women’s rights in the ethnic communities that condone FGM. In fact, there may be further abuses as women who do not have the procedure find themselves shunned by their communities and/ or difficulty finding a life partner. Laws need to be part of a more holistic approach, that includes education, support groups, and funding for hospitals that see the worst consequences of this practice (complications during birth for women who have experienced FGM can be horrific).

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