By Maria Caspani
NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Rights activists have called on all U.S. states to adopt laws banning female genital mutilation (FGM), one year after the United States committed itself at a summit in London to eradicating the practice.
The United States was one of more than 30 countries to sign a charter for the elimination of FGM & forced marriage, at home & abroad, at the Girl Summit 2014.
p> Although a federal law bans the practice throughout the country, only 24 out of 50 states have enacted legislation at the local level, rights group Equality Now said.
"We urge the U.S. to provide a public update on its plans to ensure all efforts to end FGM are sustainable & supported with funding, & support & encourage state efforts to end FGM at local levels," Shelby Quast, policy director at Equality Now, said earlier this week.
Quast said having specific laws in each state would prompt state schools, hospitals & clinics as well as local law enforcement agencies & the judiciary to step up prevention efforts & act swiftly in FGM cases.
FGM, which involves the partial or complete removal of the external genitalia, is considered a necessary pre-marriage ritual for girls in many countries, yet it can cause lasting physical & psychological damage & even death.
The practice is most usual in Africa & the Middle East, & though most African countries where FGM is found have banned the practice, it persists in many communities.
Worldwide, more than 130 million girls & women have undergone FGM.
The number of women & girls in the United States who have undergone FGM or are at risk of the procedure has more than doubled since 2000 to more than half a million, according to research published this year by the Population Reference Bureau.
U.S. authorities banned the practice in 1996 & passed a law in 2012 that makes it illegal to transport a girl out of the United States for the purpose of FGM.
FGM impacts girls in classrooms across the country in every state, Quast said.
State laws could assist to involve diaspora communities & leaders more directly in raising awareness & trying to prevent the practice, & could assist remove the stigma often associated with talking approximately genitalia, she said.
"We can have a real conversation that this is a form of violence, it's a human rights violation, & make clear this is not a cultural practice," Quast said.
(Reporting by Maria Caspani, Editing by Tim Pearce; please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, corruption & climate change. Visit www.trust.org)
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