WASHINGTON, D.C.—A growing list of Massachusetts lawmakers are working together to ensure that the horrific practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is outlawed in the state.

Along with other groups and impassioned advocates, the national EndFGMToday campaign has repeatedly called on Massachusetts lawmakers to pass a law that would punish perpetrators who inflict this unnecessary procedure that leaves both physical and emotional scars for a lifetime.

House Bill 4606, presented by state Reps. Natalie M. Higgins and Jay D. Livingstone, would establish criminal penalties for those committing FGM of imprisonment for up to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000 and allow for civil lawsuits by victims, according to The Telegram. Senate Bill 834 has also been introduced by Sen. Joseph A. Boncore. Both bills have significant numbers of co-sponsors.

“Although the Population Reference Bureau ranks Massachusetts in the top-quarter tier of states at risk of female genital mutilation with an estimated 14,200 women and girls in danger of this practice, Massachusetts has thus far failed to pass legislation to criminalize FGM,” said EndFGMToday leader, international attorney and child advocate Elizabeth Yore. “2020 must be the year the Bay State outlaws FGM forever.

Residents have also taken action in the fight against FGM by starting a Change.org petition last year, which now has over 320,000 signatures.

EndFGMToday has asserted many times that state laws criminalizing FGM are all the more crucial now, after a Michigan judge ruled that the federal FGM law was unconstitutional. In the process, serious charges against three alleged FGM perpetrators awaiting trial in Detroit were dismissed.

Besides Massachusetts, these 14 states—Alabama, Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Indiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming—also have no laws to protect their female residents from FGM.

Yore also noted that female genital mutilation is recognized by both the World Health Organization and the United Nations as a human rights violation. Additionally, over 200 million women worldwide have been subjected to this cruel practice, and the CDC estimates that more than 500,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation in the United States.

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(press release sent to WSBS from EndFGMToday for online and on-air use)