I am proud to announce that A.47-A/S3484-A, legislation I authored, was signed into law on Thursday by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The bill provides that a person is guilty of facilitating female genital mutilation when he/she intentionally aids in the commission or attempted commission of a person circumcising, excising or infibulating female genitalia of a person under 18 years old.
This horrific and barbaric practice needs to be stopped. The physical pain and suffering is just the beginning of what these young women endure for the rest of their lives. The psychological scars are deep and long-lasting, impacting the women in ways that most people cannot imagine. The idea that this is a problem confined to third-world countries is just plain wrong. Female genital mutilation (FGM) happens here, in the United States, in New York, and it needs to come to an end. This law will hold accountable not just those who do the cutting but those who help make the cutting possible.
According to a 2013 study, more than 65,000 females at risk or who have undergone FGM live in the New York City metropolitan area and Newark.
FGM refers to a harmful traditional practice, carried out largely on girls under the age of 18. Procedures range from clitoridectomy, the removal of part/all of the clitoris, to infibulation, in which all of the outer genitalia are removed and the vagina is sealed, often with stitches, except for a small opening. FGM has no medical purpose or health benefits but in fact results in devastating physical, sexual and psychological problems, including severe bleeding, tetanus, sepsis, urinary tract infections, increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths. It is illegal to perform FGM under federal and New York state law.
Despite current law prohibiting FGM, every year girls in New York remain at risk of facing imminent danger of FGM when the procedure is carried out either within the state or in traditional ceremonies overseas.
We have learned from testimony of survivors that families are increasingly engaging in a practice known as ‘vacation cutting,’ in which family members send their female children overseas to undergo FGM during school vacations, as part of a trip organized to expose the girls to the customs of their ancestral homelands, and thereby avoid criminal prosecution in this state. These young girls are sent overseas for FGM without their consent and in some cases without the knowledge or permission of one or both of their parents. This law will better enable us to protect these children from being forced to undergo FGM by holding criminally liable the individuals who intentionally assist in subjecting children to FGM.
The bill was sponsored in the Senate by Andrew Lanza.