Rep. Scott legislation would outlaw female genital mutilation
“Female genital mutilation is an abhorrent practice steeped in gender inequality and misperceptions about – and efforts to control – women's sexuality,” says Scott
Legislation introduced this week in Olympia would outlaw the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting.
Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, who spent three years as a teacher in the United Arab Emirates where the practice of FGM is widespread, is the prime sponsor of the bill.
“Female genital mutilation is an abhorrent practice steeped in gender inequality and misperceptions about – and efforts to control – women's sexuality,” said Scott. “Officials estimate between nine thousand and twenty-five thousand young girls and women in Washington state are either suffering from FGM or at risk to have the brutal practice imposed on them against their will.”
Scott's proposal, House Bill 2685, would criminalize the act of FGM making it a class B felony. Any doctor or nurse performing FGM could lose his or her license to practice medicine in the state of Washington.
Scott said the ritual of FGM can range from anywhere between a nick with a knife to the genitalia all the way to what's called infibulation, where the clitoris and inner labia and outer labia are removed and the vulva is sewn shut, with only a small hole left for urine and menstrual fluid.
“The long-term health complications are in addition to the initial pain and horror of the procedure itself,” said Scott. “Infections, chronic pain, cysts, bleeding and reproductive troubles follow these girls for the rest of their lives. There is absolutely no known health benefit to this practice; it's horrible and something we shouldn't allow to be perpetrated on our state's young girls.”
This is the third year in which Scott has proposed legislation to outlaw FGM. But she says she's worked hard with legislators on both sides of the aisle and in both legislative chambers to educate them on the issue and to perfect the bill. Her legislation this year has 29 Democrat and Republican cosponsors.
“It's a difficult subject to talk about with your colleagues in the Legislature,” said Scott. “When I first introduced this bill three years ago I got a lot of blank stares and raised eyebrows from other legislators. But the issue is real; it's had a devastating effect on young girls and women in our state and across the nation.”
The federal government outlawed FGM through legislation passed in 1996. February 6 of this year marked the 12th annual International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. However, Scott says there is rarely the time or inclination for federal authorities to prosecute such cases even though the practice still goes on in most states.
“In instances like this where the federal government is failing to protect the rights of its citizens, the state has a duty to step in,” said Scott. “Making FGM a crime at the state level will allow state and local authorities the ability to police and prosecute these crimes. Our young women deserve protection from this cruel and inhumane practice.”
Scott said her bill is set to receive a public hearing in the House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 1:30 p.m.
The 60-day 2016 legislative session is scheduled to end March 11.
###Washington State House Republican Communications