Female genital mutilation, a procedure that cuts young girls’ genitalia for social, cultural and religious reasons, has been banned in the United States for more than 20 years – until a recent ruling from a federal judge in Michigan.
United States District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that the 1996 federal law banning female genital mutilation was unconstitutional because Congress did not have the power to regulate the behavior in the first place.
Friedman threw out mutilation and conspiracy charges against all defendants charged in federal court in Michigan for connection with the genital mutilation of nine girls from Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois between 2015 and 2017.
The procedure is condemned by the United Nations and is commonly practiced in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East as a way of controlling a girl’s sexuality.
Friedman said this is a discussion that needs to be dealt with at the state level since they have the authority to define criminal law; something that falls outside of the constitution’s power structure.
Those forced to participate in female mutilation should be able to answer on behalf of their own body; to cut off external genitalia without their consent or even ability to comprehend what is happening should be illegal in all states.
As of 2017, only 27 states have outlawed female genital mutilation, leaving the other 23 states to be a prime designation spot for these procedures.
The reason people participate in female genital mutilation falls under five categories according to the United Nations Population Fund: pyschosexual, sociological and cultural, hygiene and aesthetic, religious and socio-economic reasons.
Ethnicity is the most influential factor of mutilation cases – with most young girls subjected to the procedure before going through puberty.
According to the World Health Organization, more than 20 million girls and women around the world have undergone female genital mutilation and 3 million girls are at risk of the procedure every year.
Since most girls do not have the ability to take charge of their own body at such a young age, mainly from a place of not understanding the importance of what is taking place, a direct violation of their human rights and detrimental health effects await.
The World Health Organization has condemned the practice citing medical consequences, including direct complications from the procedure (anesthesia or sedation complications, bleeding, acute infection), increased risk of death for both mother and infant in subsequent pregnancies, post-traumatic stress disorder and urinary tract infections.
Since no federal law currently bans female genital mutilation in the United States, young girls are still at high risk for these invasive procedures.
Leaving this for the states to decide is dangerous, and implies fighting for women’s rights and health is not a concern at the national level.
We must stand by young girls and women who are forced against their will to participate in the cutting of their own body. It is up to the woman to decide what happens to her body; this is not the responsibility of anyone else.
Layla Abbas, a junior journalism major, is LV Life editor for the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.