Is FGM/C legal in the U.S.?
The United States (U.S.) government considers FGM/C to be a type of child abuse and gender-based violence.1 Whether it is done in the U.S. or abroad, and regardless of the severity or motivation behind it, the U.S. stands against the practice.1
In 1996, 18 U.S. Code § 116 ‘Female Genital Mutilation’ was enacted, establishing a federal law against conspiring, attempting to, and performing FGM/C on anyone under the age of 18.2,3 This law was amended in 2021 when H.R.6100 - ‘Strengthening the Opposition to Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2020’ was passed to strengthen protections against FGM/C.4 Additionally, as of early 2022, 40 states in the U.S. have laws in place against FGM.5,6
While there is a federal law against FGM/C, it is helpful to understand if and what laws exist in your state. You can learn more at Equality Now and about the role of law enforcement in our law enforcement toolkit here.
Where does FGM/C fit into safeguarding children and mandated reporting in the US?
Educators and other school personnel, such as nurses, principals, counselors, and administrators, all have a role to play in protecting students. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is a federal law with provisions aimed at preventing, investigating, and protecting children against child abuse.7 While the requirements of mandatory reporting may vary by state, all 50 states and the District of Columbia require that school personnel report child abuse, regardless of whether it was witnessed or not, so long as there is justifiable suspicion of the occurrence.8
As FGM/C is a form of child abuse, it also falls under the purview of mandated reporting. If a student expresses clearly that they have undergone FGM/C, you may follow the required reporting protocols to ensure the continued safety of the student. If a comment or circumstance prompts suspicion, it can be helpful to reach out to additional school personnel, such as a counselor, psychologist, or social worker. Though it can be a challenge to balance, it is important to work to maintain a culturally sensitive approach while also not ignoring potential risks. Discussing concerns with others can help with this process.
Please read through the additional sections on suspected risk for FGM/C and cultural sensitivity for more information to aid in the safeguarding process.
For additional guidance on how to go about reporting a confirmed or suspected case of FGM/C with a student, please see our recommended reporting chart here.