TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the penal law, in relation to female
PURPOSE: To strengthen current law to address female genital
mutilation through "vacation cutting" in which young women are sent
out of state to undergo the procedure
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS: Section one amends subdivision 1 of section
130.85 of the penal law, as amended by chapter 618 of the laws of
1997, to provide that a person who knowingly removes or causes the
removal of a person less than 18 years old from this State for the
purpose of circumcising, excising, or infibulating the whole or any
part of the female genitalia of such person is guilty of female
Section two provides the effective date.
JUSTIFICATION: Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to a harmful
traditional practice primarily on girls under the age of 18 and that
consists of procedures performed on the female genitalia without a
medical purpose. FGM ranges from clitoridectomy, the removal of part
or all of the clitoris, to infibulation, in which all of the outer
genitalia are removed and the vagina is sealed, often with stitches,
except for a small opening.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that approximately 140
million women and girls around the world are currently living with the
consequences of FGM. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) estimated in 1997 that 150,000 to 200,000 girls and women in the
United States were at risk of being forced to undergo FGM; based on
2000 U.S. census data, between 1990 and 2000, the number of girls and
women in the United States at risk for FGM increased by 35 percent. In
2000, New York was ranked second in the country (after California)
with the greatest estimated numbers of girls and women at risk of
FGM,. When ranked by metropolitan areas with the greatest numbers of
girls and women at risk, the New York metropolitan area (including
parts of Connecticut and Pennsylvania) came in first. In 2000, the
number of girls in New York under the age of eighteen at risk of FGM
was estimated at 7,675.
Typically, girls are most at risk of FGM if they are part of a
community originally from a country where FGM is prevalent. FGM is
prevalent in 28 countries in Africa and countries in the Middle East
and Asia. Cases of FGM occur in every location in which immigrant FGM-
practicing families settle, such as New York. FGM is usually performed
on girls before the age of 15, but the specific age varies by region,
local custom, and ethnic group, and in many countries, the average age
is reported to be falling, with some girls subjected to the practice
within the first few weeks or months of life.
Despite current law prohibiting FGM, every year girls in our State
remain at risk of facing imminent danger of FGM when the procedure is
carried out either in covert and illegal ceremonies within the State
or in traditional ceremonies overseas. In the former instance, girls
are subjected to FGM by traditional practitioners who have been
brought in from overseas to preside over covert ceremonies where an
entire group of girls are subjected to the procedure within a short
period of time. In the latter instance, families send girls overseas,
often to their parents' countries of origin, to undergo FGM. After FGM
in the State was criminalized in 1997, we have learned from, among
other things, testimony of survivors, that families are increasingly
engaging in this practice, known as "vacation cutting." Family
members send their female children overseas to undergo FGM during
school vacations, as part of a trip organized to expose the girls to
the customs of their ancestral homelands, and thereby avoid criminal
prosecution in this State.
These children are sent overseas for FGM without their consent, and,
as reported in the New York Times, in some cases without the knowledge
or permission of one or both of their parents. See "After School in
Brooklyn, West African Girls Share Memories of a Painful Ritual," by
Nadia Sussman, New York Times, April 25, 2011. Although there are
thousands of women living in the State who have been subjected to FGM
and who wish to protect their daughters from the same fate,
controlling spouses, elder relatives and community members exert
overriding authority over these women's wishes.
A persistent misconception about FGM is that the procedure is required
by religion, particularly Islam. However, a multi-country survey
conducted by the WHO reveals that the perceived link between FGM and
religion may in fact be only a reformulation of control over a women's
sexuality and a form of gender-based violation and discrimination. FGM
is a 5,000 year-old harmful cultural practice that appears to predate
any religion. FGM is neither prescribed by any religion nor is it
particular to any religious group. FGM is prevalent among communities
of different religious backgrounds, including Muslims, Christians,
Jews, and followers of traditional animist religions. FGM is, among
many groups, performed to preserve a girl's virginity or to control
her sexuality, or is a prerequisite to marriage.
FGM, however, creates lifelong physical and psychological damage,
including extensive bleeding, infection, painful menstruation and
complications during childbirth, and sexual and psychological
complications. The sexual and psychological impact of the practice
cannot be understated, nor considered secondary to its physical
impact; the consequences survivors suffer are typically complex,
interlinked and often irreversible. Moreover, some women are reported
to be apprehensive about seeking medical care because they fear their
This legislation will bring New York law into alignment with federal
law, the "Transport for Female Genital Mutilation" amendment, enacted
in January this year. The amendment added an "extraterritoriality"
provision or "vacation provision," as it has been called, which
criminalizes the act of transporting girls abroad with the purpose of
subjecting them to FGM.
With enactment of this legislation, we will enhance our ability to
protect girls at risk of FGM by proscribing the removal of girls from
the State for the purposes of FGM, as well as encourage service
providers and State agencies to develop protocols on the
identification, prevention and protection of girls at risk of being
removed from the State for the purpose of FGM during school vacations
as well as other periods during the year.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: New bill.
FISCAL. IMPLICATIONS: None to the State.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect on the ninetieth day after
it shall have become law.