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USA: Genital Mutilation Is Illegal

This question and answer contains graphic information that may be offensive to some readers.

Q I know that some cultures that have emigrated to the United States practice female genital mutilation. Does the United States or Kansas have any law against that?

A Kansas has no specific law against female genital mutilation; however, it could be prosecuted under either or both of two existing laws, according to Ashley Anstaett, public information officer for the Kansas Attorney General’s office.

“It would either be considered an aggravated battery ... (or) if it was done to a (child) then it would be considered child abuse,” Anstaett said.

Congress defined female genital mutilation of a minor as a federal criminal offense in 1996, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, N.Y. The law allows an exception, if the surgery needs to be done to protect a young person’s health or if it is performed for medical reasons on a woman either in labor or who has just given birth.

The World Health Organization describes female genital mutilation as comprising “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons.”

Several types of mutilation are practiced currently, ranging from excision of the prepuce (clitoral hood) to excision of the clitoris and the labia minora. The latter makes up about 80 percent of all cases, WHO reported. Infibulation, the most extreme form, involves excision of all or part of the external genitalia and stitching the vaginal opening, which accounts for 15 percent of all procedures, the report stated.

The federal law also required the Department of Health and Human Services to compile data on genital mutilation and to provide education and outreach to “relevant communities.” The former Immigration and Naturalization Service, now the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, also was directed to provide information on the health and psychological effects of mutilation to all aliens issued U.S. visas. INS also was to provide information on the legal consequences under criminal or child-protection statutes of performing the surgery.

U.S. executive directors of international financial institutions also are required by federal law to oppose non-humanitarian loans to countries that have not undertaken education programs intended to prevent mutilation.

Legislation also has been passed by at least 16 states: California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The Center for Reproductive Rights offered this additional information:

“While religious duty is commonly cited as a justification for the practice of FGM, it is important to note that FGM is a cultural, not religious, practice. In fact, while FGM is practiced by Jews, Christians, Muslims, and members of other indigenous religions in Africa, none of these religions require it.”

SOURCE: The Emporia Gazette

AUTHOR: Bobbi Mlynar

URL: Click here

DATE: 11/01/2008

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