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Prevent barbaric practice of female genital mutilation

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A bill put forward last week by state Sen. Joyce Krawiec of Forsyth County is worthy of every legislator’s support, as well as that of the public. The bill would ban female genital mutilation in the state, the Winston-Salem Journal’s Richard Craver reported.

Krawiec said she filed the bill “because we must protect our girls from this abuse of being mutilated ... and this barbaric procedure.” We agree.

Female genital mutilation is defined as the partial or complete removal/circumcision of the labia majora, labia minora or clitoris, for nonmedical reasons. The procedure is performed in parts of India and northern and southern Africa, sometimes as a religious ritual, but often under the guise of a medical procedure, which makes it even more insidious by giving it the trappings of modernity.

And it’s sometimes performed in the U.S.

According to the World Health Organization, the procedure has no health benefits for girls or women, but it can cause severe bleeding, infections and other medical complications.

The WHO also says, “FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.”

The procedure, which has been performed on more than 200 million women and girls alive today, has been banned in 59 countries. It was also banned by federal law in the U.S. in 1996, but last November, a federal court struck down the law, ruling that the states should decide what they want to permit.

There’s some question as to whether the practice is prevalent in North Carolina, but the federal court ruling could prompt those who support it to bring underage girls to North Carolina for the procedure, Krawiec said.

Considering that, North Carolina should join 27 the states that already ban it.

Krawiec’s bill would make performing the procedure, or consenting to it as a parent or guardian, a Class C felony requiring a 44- to 182-month prison sentence. The bill would also create a surgical exemption if it’s performed as a medically necessary procedure by a state-licensed medical practitioner, including for a mother as or after she gives birth.

Some, including the defendants in the November case before the federal court, have argued that the procedure is a protected religious practice and should be exempted from government control.

But religious rights in America are not absolute. Any religious practice of this nature should be banned.

For the sake of women and girls under threat of this barbaric procedure, Krawiec’s bill should pass easily.

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