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. Majority of states have laws against FGM/C. Others like D.C. have proposed legislation in progress.6
Virginia State Laws
Legislation was updated and in effect starting in 2019. The law applies only to minors. The person(s) who performed FGM/C and the parents/guardians can be prosecuted. The law also includes a “vacation cutting” provision and a provision for community engagement and outreach.6
Maryland State Laws
Legislation in effect since 1998, this law applies only to minors. The person(s) who performed FGM/C can be prosecuted along with the parents/guardians. It does not allow for cultural/ritual reasons and/or consent as a defense.6
FGM/C and child abuse laws
The U.S. government recognizes FGM/C as a form of child abuse.1 Regardless of whether or not there are state laws specific to FGM/C, it is considered a crime under child abuse laws.
For more on state and tribal welfare laws click here.
Mandatory Reporters and Law Enforcement
The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment (CAPTA) requires all states to have processes in place for reporting child abuse or neglect, often including mandatory reporters that come from various disciplines (e.g. health care professionals, teachers, social workers) and parts of the community (e.g. childcare workers).7 Protecting children takes a multi-disciplinary approach and mandatory reporters will have direct interactions with different law enforcement officials if a suspicion occurs.8
When reports come in to law enforcement, it can be an opportunity to further educate mandatory reports on FGM/C to help them if future cases arise. We have a number of toolkits on this website that can serve as a resource for many - survivors, health care providers, educators, and community members such as faith leaders and men. Additionally, we have one-page resources that can be distributed and shared with the community.
-Page last updated 01/06/2023. Our team aims to regularly update this toolkit to ensure the most recent and accurate information is reflected.