Senate Bill banning female genital mutilation should be passed

Jeff Neal

The genital mutilation of little girls is certainly not something we want to think about.

It's a barbaric act carried out in some African countries, right? Or the Middle East? Or Asia?

Well, it's also a practice that is legal right here in Kentucky, carried out by several bizarre religious sects in order to control a female's sexuality. But 11 State Senators -- including our very own Rick Girdler -- are trying to change that.

Senate Bill 72 would make performing female genital mutilations (FGMs) on minors a felony, ban trafficking girls across state lines for FGMs and strip the licenses from medical providers convicted of the practice. Another provision would classify FGM in state statutes as a form of child abuse and require mandatory reporting of it.The proposed changes in the law would also allow survivors of FGM to file civil lawsuits against their perpetrators up to 10 years after turning 18.

The bill moved out of committee on Wednesday and now goes on to the full Senate for consideration.

It appears to be a no-brainer. Kentucky is one of only 15 states where the practice is still overlooked.

And it's a practice that has been overlooked by lawmakers for far too long.

In August, Kentucky's Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services heard testimony from a woman named Jennifer -- who is now in her 40s -- who suffered mutilation when she was 5 years old.

"Born and raised in a white, Christian household in the United States, I was sent on a long plane ride by my parents for a "special trip." As a 5-year-old, I was led down dark stairs by strangers, held down, and my mouth covered. Without anesthesia, I was cut," Jennifer said.

"Every day I am reminded of the emotional and physical consequences of being cut. Though I can't change what happened to me, there is something that drives my passion to get an anti-female genital mutilation bill passed in Kentucky: my daughters," Jennifer added. "Unfortunately, I have family members who still subscribe to this practice and believe it must be performed to control the sexuality of women and girls. As long as there is no law banning female genital mutilation in Kentucky, my daughters remain at risk of being subjected to the trauma of this practice."

Female genital mutilation is any procedure involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical purposes. It is typically performed on girls between the ages of 4 and 14, often with a razor blade or pair of scissors, to ensure their virginity until marriage and curb their libido. In the most physically severe form, following removal of all external tissue possible, what remains of a girl's vulva is sewn up, leaving only a small hole for menstruation and urination.

It is a gruesome practice. And it's amazing that it's legal in Kentucky as we enter the third decade of the 21st Century.

Yes, parents should have some rights when it comes to raising their children. But when their practices cross the line into abuse -- whether it's in the name of religion or some cultural quirk -- it's up to everyone else to stand up and put a halt to it.

Thank you Sen. Girdler and your colleagues in Frankfort for taking a stand and ending this horrendous practice in our Commonwealth.

JEFF NEAL is the editor of the Commonwealth Journal. Reach him at jneal@somerset-kentucky.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jnealCJ.

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