Texas took a stand against female genital mutilation (FGM) by shoring up its existing ban with a bill that intends to prosecute individuals who transport girls within or out of the state to undergo the procedure.
On Friday, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 323, which amends the state’s 1999 FGM prohibition under Health and Safety Code section 167.001 to criminalize the actions of anyone who knowingly transports or facilitates the transport of a female under the age of 18 for circumcision, excision, or infibulation of “any part of the labia majora, or labia minora or clitoris” within Texas or from Texas.
Abbott spokesman John Wittman told Breitbart Texas, “The governor is proud to sign a law that outlaws this barbaric practice.”
FGM, also known as “cutting,” is a state jail felony in Texas. SB 323 considers female circumcision a crime and not a custom, ritual, or religious practice. Therefore, an individual cannot use obtaining parental, guardian, or anyone else’s consent to transport a girl for this controversial procedure as a prosecution defense.
Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) authored SB 323. Previously, she said current Texas law was not as comprehensive as in other states, prompting her to write the bill.
“This misguided ritual is performed on girls as young as four-years-old to preserve their virginity for marriage,” she told Breitbart Texas by email. “It is a cruel and gruesome act. It can cause permanent health damage that will be carried by these individuals for the rest of their lives, and it has no place in our society.”
The other seven women senators co-authored SB 323. On Twitter, Nelson expressed to them her gratitude in helping to protect young girls.
— Senator Jane Nelson (@SenJaneNelson) June 10, 2017
In April, FGM grabbed national attention when U.S. prosecutors charged two Michigan doctors and a medical office manager for the “cutting” of two seven-year-old Somali girls living in Minnesota, which Breitbart News reported.
Federally, FGM became a crime in 1996 under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, with violations punishable by up to five years in prison. In 2013, the Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act amended the law to target the practice of “vacation cutting,” where female minors get taken out of the U.S. to undergo this wayward tradition.
The AHA Foundation, spearheaded by women’s rights activist and FGM survivor Ayaan Hirsi Ali, describes the procedure of female circumcision as the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia for religious, cultural, or other nonmedical reasons and is often performed on girls between the ages of four and 14.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed FGM rose alarmingly in 2012. They accounted for more than 500,000 U.S. women and girls under 18 who underwent or were at risk of FGM, up from an estimated 168,000 in 1990. Breitbart News reported the Government Accountability Office attributed the stateside rise of this practice to increased immigration from countries, largely in Africa and the Middle East, that practice FGM.
Last year, the Population Reference Bureau, a non-profit research organization, released 2013 findings showing more than 25,000 women and girls under 18 subjected to or at risk of FGM in Texas. The bureau ranked Texas fourth highest in the number of women and girls potentially affected by “cutting.” California, New York, and Minnesota took the top three spots, respectively.
The World Health Organization (WHO) condemned FGM as a human rights violation. In 2008, they reported FGM had no health benefits. The procedure can trigger shock, bleeding, acute bacterial infection, and injury to nearby tissue. Similarly, the AHA Foundation noted FGM victims may suffer with chronic infection, urinary tract infections, infertility, hemorrhage, pain, complications during intercourse and childbirth, and psychological trauma.
SB 323 goes into effect on September 1.
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