A bill that strengthens Tennessee’s protections against female genital mutilation (FGM) is headed to Gov. Bill Lee for his signature after the Legislature approved the measure.
The national EndFGMToday campaign issued a press release congratulating Tennessee lawmakers. The advocacy organization said the bill will provide additional protections for women and girls from FGM and punish the perpetrators. The bill will strengthen an already-existing law already on the books.
“The mutilation of little girls’ genitals defies all standards of humanity and cries out as a hideous violation of human rights, according to the United Nations and World Health Organization,” said attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore, who heads EndFGMToday. “The CDC estimates that 513,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation in the United States. Legislators in Tennessee realize this fact and are working to strengthen their laws even further to protect women and girls in their state. EndFGMToday urges Gov. Bill Lee to sign this critically important legislation as soon as possible.”
State Rep. Terri Weaver (R-TN-40) was the sponsor of the House legislation, HB 1364. State Sen. Joey Hensley (R-TN-28) sponsored SB 1166 in the Senate. The tracking information is here.
The bill passed unanimously in the House Judiciary Committee, EndFGMToday said. It passed the Senate on a 90-2-2 vote.
According to the bill summary, the legislation “expands the offense of female genital mutilation, creates a civil cause of action for victims of female genital mutilation, and expands offenses related to child abuse to include female genital mutilation.”
EndFGMToday says that it is crucial for states to criminalize FGM after a Michigan judge ruled that a federal anti-FGM law was unconstitutional. The U.S. Department of Justice decided not to challenge the ruling.
According to WHO, “It is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in the countries where the practice is concentrated. Furthermore, there are an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation every year. The majority of girls are cut before they turn 15 years old.”
Tennessee Eagle Forum’s Bobbie Patray noted the grassroots group began working with legislators to strengthen Tennessee’s current anti-FGM laws in December of 2018. “When the federal law was overturned it became clear that states needed to step in and pass legislation that would provide protection to those young girls who are at risk – yes even here in Tennessee.”
The group said they visited nearly all lawmakers to explain the need and how their new bill proposal would work. “We are very grateful to our sponsors, Sen. Joey Hensley, MD, and Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver for their help,” Patray said.
In all, fourteen Senators joined Sen. Hensley as co-sponsors in the Senate, while forty-seven House members joined Rep. Weaver as co-sponsors it the House.
As passed, Tennessee’s anti-FGM law will be among the strongest in the nation.
– – –