Ban Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in Connecticut

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Our names are Zehra Patwa & Mariya Taher, and as friends and survivors, we together are pleading to the Connecticut State Legislature to pass a law making it illegal for someone to carry out Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) on girls.

A Connecticut ban on FGM/C is time-critical, as 39 states, including all other states in New England, have enacted laws to ban FGM/C, And Connecticut is also the only state bordering New York in which FGM/C is legal. We do not want this state to be a destination for FGM/C. Additionally, Connecticut is the only state along the notorious sex trafficking corridor between Providence, RI, and Atlantic City, NJ in which FGM/C is legal. 

Zehra - Born and brought up in the UK and a proud Connecticut resident for over 25 years, I am a survivor of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. I have been speaking out about my experience for the last 5 years because when I was taken abroad to be cut at the age of seven, I was told to never speak of it again. I want to make sure this never happens to anyone else and I want Connecticut, my home state, to become a safe place for all girls by passing a law to ban FGM/C.

Mariya - I was born in the United States and live in Massachusetts, and at the age of seven, I, like Zehra, was subjected to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting. Due to my experience and because I have friends and relatives who have also undergone FGM/C both here in the United States or elsewhere in the world, for over five years, I’ve worked with the Massachusetts Women’s Bar Association to pass legislation protecting girls in my home state from having to undergo this harm too. The bill finally became law in August 2020. Now, I want to support my friend Zehra, in ensuring that her home state, Massachusett’s neighboring state, also passes a law to protect ALL girls from FGM/C. 

FGM/C is a practice that involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue on girls for non-medical reasons. It is internationally recognized as a human rights violation that can result in physical harm including pain, bleeding, shock, tetanus, genital sores, and cause long-lasting psychological harm including sexual disorders, fear of sexual intimacy, nightmares, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Connecticut is known for its progressive policies in terms of reproductive rights, anti-discrimination laws, and equality issues, yet 39 states have already passed laws banning FGM/C, in some cases as amendments to child abuse laws. 

As FGM/C is nearly always carried out on minors, is a violation of the rights of children, and reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes that constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women, we must protect girls from undergoing FGM/C.

Both of us believe in the importance of education and community engagement to help create social change within communities and amongst groups where FGM/C might be happening. To that end, we each have organized and participated in community events to educate our friends and family members about the harms of FGM/C and why it should be abandoned. Yet, despite our efforts, FGM/C continues, often being touted as a religious or cultural practice that is needed to control women’s sexuality. 

In 1996, the United States passed a federal law making FGM/C illegal in this country. For the first time ever in 2017, a doctor in Michigan was charged under this law for performing FGM/C on minor girls, highlighting that FGM/C does affect women and girls living in the United States. Then on Nov 20, 2018, in a US district court decision, a judge struck down the federal law on technical grounds, finding that Congress did not have the authority to pass such a law. Rather, the federal judge opined "As despicable as this practice may be, it is essentially a criminal assault" and FGM/C was “local criminal activity” to be regulated by the States.

We need a bill in Connecticut that unequivocally reiterates that female genital mutilation/cutting is a form of violence. There are laws against domestic violence and sexual assault and abuse. We need a law against FGM/C as well.

Connecticut can do a better job of protecting girls by banning FGM/C.

Sign our petition to support us in demanding that legislators pass a bill to make Connecticut the 40th state to ban FGM/C. Let’s work together to take a stance against Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting! 

 ~ Zehra Patwa &  Mariya Taher