This story contains content that some may find objectionable, but an organization wants states to put an end to female genital mutilation (FGM).
In November, a district judge in Michigan ruled that the federal FGM law was unconstitutional. As a result, Elizabeth Yore of End FGM Today pointed out that the 23 states without laws against the procedure will become safe harbors for mutilators.
"Make no mistake, people who are engaging in FGM are fully aware of the states where it is not criminalized," Yore insisted. "So, we have our work cut out for us – both on the federal level so that it meets constitutional muster and secondly, to get the remaining states to pass bills against FGM in their states."
Yore also pointed out that girls of color are the ones who are at risk for female genital mutilation – starting from the ages of three to 10.
"That's the target group of little girls that is subjected to this barbaric procedure, so it's hard to believe that the United States is joining third-world countries like Chad and Sudan as countries that have not criminalized FGM, but this [would not be] the fact of the matter with the federal court throwing out the FGM federal statute."
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman called the practice "despicable," but ruled that Congress has no authority to enact such a law.
Michigan is one of the states with a law against FGM.
"Twenty years ago – when we were talking about human trafficking – people were saying, 'It doesn't happen in my community,' but now we know it's in small towns, big towns, suburbia," Yore continued. "Female genital mutilation is a covert crime, done in secret in the darkness of night – often times like it was in the case of Detroit."
FGM is a religious custom performed by Dawoodi Bohra, a Muslim sect that included Dr. Jumana Nagarwala and other Detroit-area defendants accused of mutilating 100 girls over 12 years.
"It's a highly uncomfortable topic that people don't want to talk about," Yore acknowledged. "They can't believe it's happening in the United States, but with the huge influx of migrants from FGM-practicing countries, it's here, and we have a lot of work to do to let migrants who are coming into the United States understand this is a crime in our states."