Legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Linda Stender and Annette Quijano outlawing the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation on minors received final legislative approval 79-0 by the General Assembly on Monday.
“This is a horrific practice that serves no medical purpose,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “It’s meant to dehumanize women and should not be tolerated in any way shape or form. Anyone who would submit young girls and women to this torture must be held accountable.”
Female genital mutilation involves the partial or total removal of, or other injury to, the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons. Typically, the procedure is performed on girls under the age of 15 and can cause severe, lifelong medical complications. It is estimated that more than 228,000 women and girls in the United States currently are at risk for, or have undergone, female genital mutilation.
“Most people think this practice is isolated to third-world countries, however it is surprisingly more prevalent in the Unites States than one would think,” said Stender (D-Middlesex/Somerset/Union). “We need to use the full weight of the law to send a message that it won’t be tolerated.”
The bill (S-1171/A-2601) would prohibit the practice of genital mutilation on females under the age of 18 and make it a crime of the third degree punishable by three to five years in prison or a fine of up to $15,000, or both if a person:
1) knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates, in whole or in part, the labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris of a female under 18 years of age;
2) is a parent, guardian, or has immediate custody or control of a female under 18 years of age and knowingly consents to, or permits the circumcision, excision, or infibulation, in whole or in part of, the labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris of a female under 18 years of age; or
3) knowingly removes or permits the removal of a female under 18 years of age from the State for the purpose of circumcising, excising, or infibulating, in whole or in part, the labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris of the female under 18 years of age.
“Countless women all over the world, including in the United States, have been subjected to this barbaric attempt to be relegated to property,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This is not something that should be tolerated in a progressive, modern society.”
The bill provides an exception for a procedure that is necessary to the health of the female on whom it is performed if it is carried out by a licensed health care professional acting within the scope of the professional’s license, or if the procedure is performed on a female in labor or who has just given birth for medical purposes connected with that labor or birth by a licensed health care professional acting within the scope of the professional’s license or by a person in training to become such a licensed health care professional.
Under the bill, it is not a defense that the person engaging in the prohibited conduct believed that the procedure was necessary or appropriate as a matter of custom, ritual, or standard practice, or that the female on whom the procedure was carried out, her parent, guardian, or person who had immediate custody or control over the female, consented to the procedure.
The measure now heads to the Governor’s desk.