Despite female genital mutilation and cutting (FGM/C) affecting at least 513,000 women and girls across the United States, nine states have yet to pass any specific laws against this harmful practice. While 41 states have introduced laws on FGM/C, legal protections vary considerably between states, and many need their legislation strengthened and better implemented.
To help close the gaps, the US End FGM/C Network has partnered with the international women’s rights organization Equality Now to co-create an interactive map that details at a state-by-state level what key legal provisions currently exist regarding FGM/C. In addition, the map provides the latest available data on the number of women and girls impacted by FGM/C in every state.
The Network is also launching a new publication titled ‘Training Manual for Legal Professionals on FGM/C in the US.’ This comprehensive resource provides invaluable guidance to lawmakers, legal practitioners, and others in drafting, enacting, and enforcing laws to combat FGM/C. It gives information and analysis on current state and federal laws, case studies, and best practices to foster a holistic and inclusive legal framework.
These two informative new resources are helpful tools for government officials, lawmakers, healthcare professionals, FGM/C survivors, activists, and advocates. The aim is to foster effective legislation against FGM/C in every state, with comprehensive, holistic laws that prioritize the views and needs of survivors and promote prevention without further marginalizing vulnerable communities.
They are being launched by the US End FGM/C Network and Equality Now at a high-profile event they are co-hosting in New York City at the start of the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 78).
Sustainable Development Goal 5.3
UNGA brings together world leaders, and high on the agenda will be discussions about what progress has been made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including target 5.3, which requires every government to take action to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.”
Eradicating FGM/C worldwide by 2030 is one of the commitments that all 193 UN member states agreed to when they signed onto the SDGs in 2015. Eight years on, many countries, including the US, are still not doing enough to protect women and girls.
Caitlin LeMay, Executive Director of US End FGM/C Network, explains, “It is imperative that FGM/C is framed as a global issue, and for that to happen, we need to acknowledge that FGM/C happens here in the United States, too. One way that we can acknowledge that FGM/C is a problem in the US that is worthy of visibility and resources is by ensuring that we have comprehensive laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that will promote the prevention of FGM/C as well as providing the necessary support to survivors.”
Laws against FGM/C are needed at a state level
Legislation at the state level and its effective implementation are crucial to preventing FGM/C in the US because states have a more direct impact on the lives of people in their jurisdiction and have a significantly greater capacity to reach the women and girls at risk than at the federal level. States govern the activities of state-run institutions, including law enforcement and courts, healthcare, social services, and other programs, making them the best fit to provide protection.
In New York State alone, over 48,000 women and girls live with or are at risk of undergoing FGM/C – demonstrating the dire need for collective, immediate action. While it is acknowledged that FGM/C happens in some diaspora communities, there is far less awareness about cases of FGM/C being done in predominately white Christian communities in the US.
It is essential to correct the misconception that FGM/C only happens within immigrant communities and elsewhere in the world. This requires raising public awareness and better collecting and aggregating statistical data on FGM/C at a state and national level. Information needs to be gathered and made publically available as it is central to motivating authorities to take comprehensive action, and it provides a baseline from which the scale and effectiveness of interventions can be measured.
Jill Thompson, Equality Now’s Regional Representative of North America and the Global Lead on Adolescent Girls says, “The United States government recognizes FGM/C as a grave human rights abuse and a form of violence against women internationally but has not done enough to address this issue in the United States itself.
“Eradication of FGM/C requires a comprehensive, survivor-centred approach, including a strong legal framework, public education, community outreach, stakeholder training, law enforcement, and health services for women and girls living with FGM/C. Eliminating it is a critical component of SDG 5 – achieving gender equality. But we can’t expect other countries to end FGM/C if we aren’t making every effort to end it within the United States as well.”
1. Mapping the Landscape: Distinguished legal experts, survivors, and government officials will analyze the existing laws against FGM across various states in the United States during the official release of an updated state laws map. By mapping the current legal landscape, attendees will gain insights into the gaps and challenges that hinder the full protection of women and girls.
2. Release of the Legal Manual: The event will also highlight the official release of the Training Manual for Legal Professionals on FGM/C in the US, an unprecedented legal resource meticulously crafted to guide duty bearers, lawmakers, and legal practitioners in drafting, enacting, and enforcing laws to combat FGM/C in the United States. This manual, a product of rigorous research and collaboration by the US End FGM/C Network, provides information and analysis on current state and federal laws, case studies, and best practices to foster a holistic and inclusive legal framework.
3. Thought-Provoking Discussions: Thought leaders, survivors, activists, and representatives from governmental and non-governmental organizations will engage in dynamic panel discussions on the challenges faced by communities affected by FGM, the role of legislation in changing norms, and the importance of survivor-informed legislation and community-led education measures aimed at ending FGM within our generation.
4. Commitment to Action: Equality Now and its partners remain steadfast in their dedication to gender equality and the protection of women’s rights. This event reflects the organization’s commitment to fostering a world where all individuals can live free from the physical and psychological harm caused by FGM/C. Our advocacy will continue until all states pass a law against FGM, existing state laws are implemented using a multi-sectoral and comprehensive approach, and particularly ensure that provisions in the state laws include community education and outreach.
Title of Event: Mapping Progress, Charting the Future: Utilizing Legal Tools to End FGM/C in the United States
Date: September 14, 2023
Time: 2:00 pm EDT – 3:30 pm EDT
Venue: Scandinavia House, 58 Park Ave, New York, NY 10016, United States
- Jill Thompson, Regional Representative for North America and Global Lead on Adolescent Girls at Equality Now
- Shivangi Misra, Global Legal Advisor at Equality Now
- Caitlin LeMay, Executive Director at the US End FGM/C Network
- Kate Finley, Senior Attorney Human Rights Violator Law Division Office of the Principal Legal Advisor, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, US Department of Homeland Security
- Absa Samba, Activist and Co-Founder of the Washington Coalition to End FGM/C
- Mariam Anaïs Gnakra, LL.M (she/her/hers), Legal Analyst , The World Bank
Join us at this pivotal event as we collectively pave the way for transformative change. Let’s create a society where the rights and dignity of women and girls are upheld and where the practice of Female Genital Mutilation becomes a thing of the past.
Notes to editors:
For media inquiries, contact Mel Bailey, Communications Officer for North America and Global Ending Sexual Violence Campaign at Equality Now,
E: email@example.com, T: 212-586-0906 ext.16
About Equality Now: Founded in 1992, Equality Now is an international human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of all women and girls around the world. Our campaigns are centred on four program areas: Legal Equality, End Sexual Violence, End Harmful Practices, and End Sexual Exploitation, with a cross-cutting focus on the unique needs of adolescent girls. Equality Now combines grassroots activism with international, regional, and national legal advocacy to achieve legal and systemic change to benefit all women and girls and works to ensure that governments enact and enforce laws and policies that uphold their rights.
About The US End FGM/C Network: The US End FGM/C Network (“the Network”) is a collaborative group of over 200 survivors, civil society organizations, foundations, activists, policymakers, researchers, healthcare providers, and others committed to promoting the abandonment of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) in the US and around the world.
The Network’s mission is to eliminate FGM/C by connecting, supporting, elevating and advocating on behalf of and with diverse US stakeholders engaged in prevention, education, and care. The US End FGM/C Network serves as the main source of information and the lead advocacy voice on ending this harmful practice in the United States and around the world.