Unanimous Senate sends female-genital mutilation ban to House

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

A bill to ban female genital mutilation in Kentucky unanimously passed the Senate Jan. 22 and went to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration.The sponsor of Senate Bill 72, Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, told senators that FGM has no health benefits and  creates life-long physical and physiological harm. It is usually performed on girls between 4 and 14.

“Female genital mutilation is one of the most egregious forms of child abuse,” Adams said. “It is internationally recognized as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women.”

Kentucky is one of 15 states where FGM is still legal. A federal ban that had been in place for more than two decades was found unconstitutional in 2018, putting the responsibility on states.

The United Nations Population Fund estimates that 200 million women and girls have suffered FGM. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 513,000 American females are at risk of FGM or have undergone it. In Kentucky, that number is estimated at 1,845, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

An FGM survivor named Jenny, who asked that her last name remain private, gave several reasons for the bill at the Jan. 15 Senate Health & Welfare Committee meeting.

She said a law banning the practice would offer support to women who are surrounded by people who still believe in it, but want to give their daughters “an out;” prompt women who have had FGM to ask questions, since many think it is done to all females; let people in other states know that Kentucky is not a “safe haven” for it; and promote badly needed education about it.

The bill would make FGM a felony if performed on a female under 18. It would ban trafficking girls across state lines for FGM, and revoke the licenses of medical providers convicted of the practice. It classifies FGM as a form of child abuse and would require mandatory reporting of it.

It would also mandate training for law enforcement and require the state Department for Public Health to produce and disseminate educational materials about it, and allow victims of the practice to file civil lawsuits up to 10 years after turning 18.

The bill had 12 sponsors, representing both parties. Click here for a fact sheet about FGM.

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