Cheh Floats Bill Prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) recently introduced the Female Genital Mutilation Prohibition Act of 2019 to broadly prohibit the act of female genital mutilation in the District and, as importantly, prohibits a parent, guardian or conservator from removing a person under their care from the District for the purpose of facilitating female genital mutilation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of girls and women living in the U.S. who have undergone or been at risk of this practice has tripled over the past two decades.

Cheh’s legislation takes aim at prohibiting the procedure.

“Female genital mutilation is a practice with no valid medical purpose that can cause extensive harm to both the physical and mental well-being of young women,” Cheh said. “The District must keep pace with other states in our region and across the country by further restricting and penalizing this practice to ensure that we are in no way a destination or accommodating jurisdiction for this procedure.”

Although rarely performed in the U.S., girls remain at risk as they are taken abroad by a caregiver to areas where this practice is performed. Over time, more than half of states have passed laws specifically prohibiting female genital mutilation, many explicitly prohibiting the removal of a person from the U.S. for the purpose of facilitating this practice. These laws help ensure that no woman is subjected to this practice, whether in their home country or abroad.

Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Brianne Nadeau, Vincent Gray, Elissa Silverman and David Grosso joined Cheh as co-introducers.

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  1. Dear Editor,

    As Executive Director of a charity committed to ending the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the U.S., I want to thank the Washington Informer for highlighting the work of D.C. Council member Mary. M. Cheh in banning the practice of FGM in the District in your June 19th publication. However, the article stated, ‘Although rarely performed in the U.S, girls remain at risk as they are taken aboard by a caregiver to areas where this practice in performed’. I fear this sentence might have mislead readers to minimize the extent of the problem in the District.

    The D.C. metropolitan area has the second highest concentration of women and girls affected by FGM in the country, estimated at over 50,000 according to data by the Population Reference Bureau. Overall, more than half a million women and girls in the U.S. are at risk of or have undergone FGM. The number of women and girls at risk more than doubled from 2000 to 2013. The majority of these girls are U.S. born children of parents from high-prevalence countries.

    FGM has long-lasting psychological as well as physical consequences. It is a horrific practice that intentionally causes injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons and is typically carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15. Physical consequences can include; severe bleeding and problems urinating, cysts, infections and chronic pain, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths. Girls who have undergone FGM also frequently suffer post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and reduced social functioning. It is a traumatizing experience that has been linked to lower educational outcomes in girls and, as such, is a serious form of child abuse.

    Specifically banning FGM, and providing accurate education and outreach around the practice, is critical in the fight to ending this child abuse in the District. Minimizing the problem only exacerbates it.


    George Zarubin, Esq., Executive Director, AHA Foundation

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