Saving girls from being cut

A Salon article inspires legislation to put an end to the brutal practice of female genital mutilation

Published April 27, 2010 8:01PM (EDT)

No one wants to read about female genital mutilation. You don't seek out an article about the brutal practice of butchering girls' private parts for a relaxed lunchtime read, or mention the issue during cocktail conversations. (Unless you're me, in which case you have already discovered it's a big no-no.) Over the years, we've repeatedly written about the topic anyway, because it matters. This may not pay off in page views, but it just did in actual impact. A piece written for Salon by longtime contributor Lynn Harris has inspired Reps. Joseph Crowley and Mary Bono Mack to introduce legislation to combat the practice.

The procedure, which includes partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia, is already illegal stateside, but the Girls Protection Act "would make it a federal crime to transport a minor outside the United States for the purpose of female genital mutilation," explains a press release. When a little bird told me the legislation was inspired by an article Harris wrote earlier this year about how female genital mutilation is a problem in our own country, I went to Crowley's chief of staff, Kate Winkler, for confirmation. Sure enough, she wrote in an e-mail:

Congressman Crowley was aware of the abusive practice of FGM abroad, but Lynn's story did highlight a new issue -- which is families living in the US and traveling abroad to ensure FGM is performed on minor girls. So, it is definitely fair to say that Lynn's article clearly brought to our attention a new problem related to FGM and inspired him to take action.

It inspired him to take action! Feminist-minded journalism with a positive real-life impact? Now, fancy that. 

Taina Bien-Aime, director of Equality Now, says this "new legislation finally closes a loophole in federal law" and follows in the footsteps of European countries, many of which have had such a rule "on the books for many years." Here's to the bill becoming law, and to future impact from feminist writing.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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