The Biden administration has committed to promoting a women’s rights agenda. We should remind President Biden, the new Gender Policy Council, and members of Congress of their domestic and foreign policy commitments to ending female genital mutilation/cutting.
COVID-19 has left no one untouched, but it has had an especially pernicious impact on girls—most particularly those from already marginalized communities.
From a dramatic rise in sex trafficking in Malawi, to spiraling rates of sexual violence in India, from subversive restrictions on access to abortion in the U.S. to an increase in teen pregnancy and female genital mutilation in Kenya, it is clear that COVID-19 is an existential threat to gender equality.
“When we were granted asylum, we were finally able to live in safety and peace.
“My heart sank earlier this month when I learned that other women and girls may not have the same access to safety that we did. The Trump administration wants to make major changes to the rules for asylum law.
“If these rules were in effect when I sought asylum in 2011, I would not have been granted.”
At this time, it’s important for governments to recognize the unique impacts that the virus has on girls and women—including gender-based violence—and take action to ensure their safety and well-being during lockdown.
Late last month, a letter was sent out to Congress urging the funding of important programs in support of gender equality in the Fiscal Year 2021. It reads: “Advancing the political, economic, and social status of women and girls should be an essential component of U.S. Government efforts to promote global stability and strengthen our national security.”
A new global report looks at 60 countries where FGM is practiced and may be widespread. But it happens in secret. It is not against the law, and governments do not even collect official data about it. Instead they pretend it does not exist.
One of the reasons FGM persists is that it happens in silence. We need a national conversation that engages all sectors of society. We need to recognize that FGM is child sexual assault. We need the stories of FGM survivors integrated into a more inclusive and intersectional #MeToo movement.
“You need to have a regular and intense exposure of the people to the same information and messaging. Let them reflect, let them speak, let them think about it. It takes weeks and months to change their vision.”
The U.S. Attorney General decided not to appeal the Michigan case against Jumana Nagarwala—a doctor who may have subjected up to 100 girls to Female Genital Mutilation over a 12-year period. It’s now up to Congress to respond.
Half a million. That is how many women and girls across the U.S. are currently at risk of or have been subjected to female genital mutilation. It’s a number that surprises many—and so should the fact that just 28 states have enacted laws to protect women and girls against it.