GLP Urges MA Legislators to Pass S834/H3332 An Act Relative to Female Genital Mutilation

FGM Letter to MA Judiciary Committee

http://www.janedoe.org/site/assets/docs/Policy_Legislation/FGM%20Factsheet%202019.pdf

Senator James B. Eldridge, Chair
Joint Committee on the Judiciary
24 Beacon Street, Room 320
Boston, MA 02133

Representative Claire D. Cronin, Chair
Joint Committee on the Judiciary
24 Beacon Street, Room 136
Boston, MA 02133

May 13, 2019

Dear Senator Eldridge and Representative Cronin,

Global Lawyers and Physicians writes to express strong support for Bill S834/H3332 to ban female genital mutilation in Massachusetts. Global Lawyers and Physicians (GLP) is a Non-Profit, Non-Governmental Organization that Focuses on Health and Human Rights Issues. Lawyers and physicians, by virtue of their privileged position and their commitment to life, health, social justice and equality, have special obligations to all people.

The bill, refiled from last session, already has significant support in both the House and the Senate. As co-Chairs of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, we ask you to vote the bills favorably out of the committee and urge House and Senate Leadership to bring the bills to their respective chambers for a vote.

FGM is defined by the World Health Organization as removal of all or part of a girls’ healthy sex organs and surrounding tissue for non-medical reasons, often resulting in serious health consequences, including the risk of death in childbirth.  It can also result in lifelong psychological trauma. There are no health benefits to this practice. According to the Centers for Disease Control, half a million women and girls living in the United States have been cut or are at risk of FGM. Over fourteen thousand such women and girls reside in Massachusetts, which ranks our state as 12th in the nation for at-risk populations.  I have personally seen hundreds of these women and bore witness to their suffering over the last 20 years.  Last session, the Joint Judiciary Committee heard unequivocal testimony from survivors that FGM happens in the US and that girls born in Massachusetts are at risk.

Twenty-eight states have already passed laws banning FGM, and with your help Massachusetts can be number 29.  We do not want our state to be a destination for FGM.  Last November, a U.S. District court struck down the federal law making FGM illegal, finding that Congress exceeded its authority under the Commerce Clause in the U.S. constitution, and that FGM should be regulated at the state level under the state’s police power. Top Massachusetts law enforcement officials testified last session that existing state criminal laws would not cover FGM. The Department of Children and Families considers FGM a form of child abuse. Massachusetts must act to stop this practice.

This legislation will act as a preventative tool for families who want to end this practice but remain afraid of social pressures to do so. The bills will provide community wide education on the harmfulness of FGM, education for first responders, penalties for the practice of FGM, including for trafficking girls for FGM, and a civil remedy for victims.

We respectfully urge you to support this legislation and take the necessary steps to help move it forward in your leadership capacity.

Sincerely,

George J. Annas, JD
Sondra S. Crosby, MD

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