Testimony in Support of Protecting Girls from Female Genital Mutilation Before the Committee on Judiciary

The Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS) wishes to be recorded in strong support of Senate Bill 788/House Bill 2333, An Act protecting girls from female genital mutilation. 

H.2333/S.788 defines Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs, or any harmful procedure to the female genitalia.” This bill would criminalize the following acts:  committing FGM on a child; removing a child from Massachusetts for the purposes of committing FGM; assisting a child in committing FGM on herself; consenting to the commission of FGM on a child; and aiding and abetting another in the commission of FGM on a child.  It would also put in place a much-needed program for education, prevention, and outreach to communities that commonly practice FGM in order to inform them of the health risks and emotional trauma inflected by the practice of FGM.

23 states and the federal government have passed laws banning FGM, which is recognized internationally as a human rights violation, torture, and an extreme form of discrimination against woman and girls.  A 2013 prevalence study indicates that the number of woman and girls in Massachusetts who have had FGM performed on them or are at risk of FGM totaled 14,591 and that Massachusetts ranks 12th in the nation for at-risk populations (Population Reference Bureau, 2/6/15 report). 

MMS policy strongly supports initiatives to prevent child abuse:

“[MMS] will…support initiatives to increase physicians’, other health workers’, and the public’s knowledge of child abuse to improve education and training methods for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of child abuse; to promote development of evidence-based programs that continue to advance medical knowledge and competence in the control of this public health problem; and engage in collaborative work with professionals, especially in fields such as child welfare, law, social work, psychology, education, and religion in the management of child abuse.” This bill, particularly the provisions addressing education, prevention, and community outreach, supports this long-held MMS policy. 

Massachusetts is a national leader in public health and welfare policies, and this legislation would further that leadership by promoting the health and safety of women and girls throughout the Commonwealth. MMS therefore urges the Committee on Judiciary to vote to report H.2333/S.788 out of committee favorably. 

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