LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) – Arkansas legislators will consider a bill filed by Senator Breanne Davis (R-Russellville) and Representative Robin Lundstrum (R-Springdale) to criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM) in the state.
The bill not only penalizes those who would commit female genital mutilation but would also provide strong measures aimed at prevention.
“As someone who is passionate about defending children, when I learned that girls in Arkansas are at risk of this painful and harmful practice, it was clear to me that we must immediately act to ensure that not a single girl lacks adequate protections in our state,” says Sen. Davis.
The World Health Organization condemns female genital mutilation as a violation of women’s and girls’ human rights. The practice involves the removal of part, or all, of a girl’s external genitalia to attempt to control her sexual appetite. If their bill is enacted, Arkansas would join 28 other states that have criminalized FGM.
“Sen. Davis and Rep. Lundstrum’s bill goes beyond punishing perpetrators; it gives survivors the opportunity to stand up for themselves in a court of law and, crucially, provides education for communities and professionals aimed at eradicating the practice,” says Amanda Parker, senior director of the AHA Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to protect women from such abuses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 513,000 women and girls are at risk of or have undergone of FGM in the United States. The Population Reference Bureau estimates that 551 of those girls live in Arkansas.
“Edmund Burke said, ‘the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ We know that this cruel act is happening to little girls. How can we turn our backs and do nothing?”, said Rep. Robin Lundstrum, the lead House sponsor.
There are various types and degrees of FGM ranging from pricking or incising the genital area to the most severe, which involves removing or cutting external tissue including the clitoris, inner and outer labia and sewing or narrowing the opening to leave only a small hole to allow for menstruation and urination. FGM has no health benefits. Many girls who undergo FGM face lasting physical and psychological consequences.
“Considering the potentially devastating consequences that are associated with FGM, even one girl in Arkansas suffering from this practice is one too many,” says Sen. Davis.