2015-11-11 / Front Page

Crowley, Jackson Lee Write Letter Calling On Fight Against FGM

Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Queens, the Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), authors of the Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) Act, announced they led a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power urging the U.S. to continue supporting the fight against FGM through the implementation of the recently adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
In September, the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes over a dozen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to improve the world over the next 15 years. One of these goals is to achieve gender equality and empower women and girls, and the goal explicitly sets a target to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.”
 
As the focus now turns to developing the specific indicators to monitor progress toward these targets, Crowley, Jackson Lee, and over a dozen members of Congress are calling on the U.S. to support a specific global indicator to measure the prevalence of FGM.
 
“A global indicator on FGM sets a standard of accountability, putting forward a framework to develop comprehensive strategies for monitoring and addressing FGM. It will not only send a powerful message, but also help drive resources and political efforts that are needed to end FGM –by both building upon efforts in countries that are making progress and increasing efforts in countries where more must be done,” wrote the lawmakers in the letter.
 
The proposed FGM indicator will provide clear data on where FGM happens and who is impacted, allowing eradication efforts to be focused and intensified. Having an indicator that directly highlights FGM will also put pressure on governments to develop comprehensive strategies to address this practice.
 
In addition, the letter stresses the importance that the FGM indicator be applied globally, and not just measure FGM in a select few countries, to send a clear message that girls everywhere should be kept safe.


The practice of FGM, defined by the World Health Organization as, “procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons,” is a harmful practice carried out on an estimated 125 million girls and women around the world. Despite being banned in the U.S. since 1996, according to one now-dated estimate, over 160,000 women and girls in the U.S. have either been, or at risk of being, subjected to FGM. In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that acknowledged FGM as a violation of human rights and called for countries to develop national strategies to end FGM. The same year, the U.S. Congress adopted the language of Crowley’s The Girls Protection Act, closing a critical loophole in U.S. law and finally putting the law firmly on the side of girls.


Despite legal protections, and a commitment from the UN General Assembly, much more is needed to fully combat the practice. Earlier this year, Crowley and Jackson Lee introduced the Zero Tolerance for FGM Act, legislation that requires the federal government to undertake a national study to provide data on and insight into the prevalence of FGM in the U.S. and establish a multi-agency strategy to bring the practice to an end. Such a strategy could include the establishment of an emergency hotline for girls seeking assistance; the provision of resources to help those on the frontlines, such as educators, healthcare workers, and law enforcement; implementation of a public awareness campaign; and appropriate funding to support these efforts.


Efforts to help bring an end to FGM overseas not only protects girls in those countries, but also helps end conditions in places where American girls are sent and subjected to FGM.
 
The letter can be found here and the full text is below:
 
 
November 3, 2015
 
 
The Honorable Samantha Power
Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, New York 10017
 
Dear Ambassador Power:
 
            Promoting the rights of women and girls has been a goal of successive United States administrations. Consistent with these efforts, we urge the United States to lead the way in supporting the inclusion of a global indicator of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. By prioritizing this indicator and ensuring that it applies globally, we can make great strides toward ending FGM worldwide.
 
            As you know, Target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals seeks to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.” This is an important and welcome approach to the broader goal of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls. One of the indicators that has been proposed for this target is the “percentage of girls and women aged 15-49 years who have undergone FGM/C by age group.” This indicator will be critical to measuring the achievement of the target and to ensuring the success of the Sustainable Development Goals, and we urge you to prioritize including the FGM indicator alongside measurements of child, early and forced marriage.
 
            Additionally, we would like to stress how important it is that the FGM indicator be applied globally. We understand that proposed language would limit the indicator to only certain countries. This would be a mistake, and would leave out all too many girls who are impacted by FGM. The practice of FGM has been found in countries far beyond those commonly known, including in the U.S., and as international migration continues to increase, clear evidence has demonstrated that a girl’s risk is not limited to her home country. Wherever girls are at risk for FGM, there must be the tools in place to move forward the fight against this harmful practice.
 
            A global indicator on FGM sets a standard of accountability, putting forward a framework to develop comprehensive strategies for monitoring and addressing FGM. It will not only send a powerful message, but also help drive resources and political efforts that are needed to end FGM –by both building upon efforts in countries that are making progress and increasing efforts in countries where more must be done.
 
            The message has gone out around the world, from numerous countries and from the U.N. General Assembly – FGM must be eliminated within a generation. The Sustainable Development Goals will bring attention to important worldwide missions like ending FGM, and we are pleased to see the attention paid to FGM in the development of the targets. We now hope to see a global indicator on FGM included, so that we can fully achieve this target, and the dream of making the world safer for girls. We welcome the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with you throughout this process, and look forward to your response.
 
Sincerely,
 
Joseph Crowley                                                                     
Sheila Jackson Lee
Jim McDermott                                                                      
Raúl M. Grijalva
Eliot L. Engel                                                             
Eleanor Holmes Norton         
Robert A. Brady        
Jackie Speier
Carolyn B. Maloney                                      
Barbara Lee
James P. McGovern                                                   
John K. Delaney
Suzanne Bonamici                                                     
Charles B. Rangel      
Janice D. Schakowsky  


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