Salon Writer Inspires Anti-FGM Legislation


It’s easy to feel helpless when you’re just one person standing at the foot of a behemoth problem, but as Tracy Clark-Flory reported yesterday, Salon contributor Lynn Harris brought Gandhi’s, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” mantra to life by exposing the horrors of female genital mutilation happening on US soil.  Her in-depth coverage of the subject inspired representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) to introduce anti-FGM legislation referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary on Monday.

According to Clark-Flory’s piece, the Girls Protection Act “would make it a federal crime to transport a minor outside the United States for the purpose of female genital mutilation.”  Harris’s original reporting on the subject concluded that while female genital mutilation has “been outlawed by U.S. federal law since 1996 and is also illegal in 17 states — its practice by immigrant families here is, by all anecdotal reports, only increasing.”

Harris should feel particularly proud of her work, because as she stated, “Versions of a bill that would require (New York) state to report to the governor annually on its efforts to address FGM has passed the state assembly repeatedly since 1995 but has died a thousand deaths in the Senate. (Re-re-reintroduced in January 2009 by Assemblywoman Barbara Clark of Queens, the bill is currently cooling its heels in the Senate’s Health subcommittee.)”  Bringing attention to the problem on a federal level should certainly impact what is happening in New York State, and more specifically in New York City, where many immigrants whose country of origin condone the practice of FGM reside.  Unlike male circumcision, which is executed for both religious and health reasons, Harris notes that female genital mutilation, though a part of Muslim culture in some countries, is a social, not religious, practice and serves not only no benefit, but often traumatizes the young women forced into it.

For more on the Girls Protection Act, click here.