State Sen. Dick Black’s (R-13) bill criminalizing female genital mutilation (FGM) unanimously passed the Virginia Senate on Feb. 2. Now, SB 1060 will be taken up by the House of Delegates where its fate will be decided in the next couple of weeks.
FGM is the ritual removal of part or all of the female genitalia, according to Equality Now. It is typically performed in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and has spread to the United States through immigration. The practice is seen as a rite of passage in some communities, where it is performed ostensibly to control a woman’s sexuality, ensure virginity until marriage, and fidelity in marriage.
As proposed, the state legislation would make the felony punishable by a minimum of five years in jail and a maximum of 20 years in Virginia. SB 1060 also has a clause allowing girls to pursue civil damages for up to 10 years after turning 18. Federal law does not have a provision for civil suits, as previously reported by the Tribune.
Some families take their daughters abroad to have her undergo FGM. The Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act amended federal law in 2013 to outlaw this practice of going overseas for “vacation cutting.” Federal law now makes the practice punishable as if it happened in the U.S., as would Black’s bill, according to previous Tribune reporting.
The bill is in the House’s Courts of Justice Committee and will most likely be read next week, said Chris Lore, Black’s legislative aide. He also said he expects the House to vote on the bill en bloc, which means it will be voted on without debate.
SB 1060 unanimously passed the Senate Courts of Justice Committee on Jan. 16, where an identical bill introduced by Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant (R-12) was incorporated into it. Dunnavant is a first term member of the Senate and a OB/GYN physician practicing in the Richmond area.