SC Slammed For Lack Of FGM Law

Palmetto State criticized for lack of prohibition against “cutting …”

As dystopian dramas go, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale is pretty dark.  Based on a 1985 novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, the series depicts the overthrow of the United States by “Gilead,” a totalitarian theocratic regime that brutally represses women.

The series (which was renewed for a third season back in May) stars Elisabeth Moss, who won an Emmy award for her portrayal of one of these women – who are not allowed to read, work or own property and who are often subjected to ritualized rape as part of Gilead’s eugenics program.

Among the darker issues explored in The Handmaid’s Tale is female genital mutilation (FGM) – a common punishment in Gilead when women break the law.  FGM (or “cutting”) involves the surgical removal or alteration of external female sex genitalia in an effort to repress sexual desire.  In several African countries – including Somalia, Guinea, Djibouti and Sierra Leone – more than 90 percent of the female population are subjected to this procedure.

All told, an estimated 200 million girls and women in the world have been subjected to varying degrees of FGM according to data from UNICEF.

The practice – which has no medical benefit – has been illegal at the federal level in the United States since 1996, but it wasn’t prosecuted for the first time until last year.  A big part of that?  FMG is exceedingly rare in America, although it has happened here … and recent reports indicate it is on the rise nationally.

South Carolina is one of twenty-three states that does not have an anti-FMG law.  It is also one of four states – along with Indiana, Kentucky and North Carolina – being singled out by anti-FMG advocate Elizabeth Yore.

“With important midterm elections just two months away, legislators in these states should stand up and say they are committed to protecting women and girls from FGM by sponsoring a bill criminalizing this procedure,” Yore said. “This can and should be a bipartisan issue, as evidenced by the twenty-seven states with laws already in place.  While some developments have been positive, twenty-three states do not have laws protecting females from this ghastly practice – and that is unacceptable.  We will be advocating in the new legislative sessions to further protect these girls so they are safe from FGM in all 50 states.”

So … should South Carolina adopt an anti-FGM law?

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We will admit this is the first time we have ever considered the question … and as a result are hereby opening the floor to anyone willing to educate us regarding the pros and cons of the issue.  Obviously, Yore and her group intend on making it a point of discussion here – and we welcome that conversation.

At first blush, we believe the federal prohibition against FGM likely makes state laws superfluous – and could, in fact, potentially lead to the sort of duplicative and unnecessary prosecution we have seen in other cases.  And given the extreme uncommonness of the practice, we are not sure whether there is a compelling public interest served by a statewide ban.

Having said that, a law banning the practice (or rather banning it without a woman’s explicit consent) doesn’t give us much in the way of heartburn.  Again, at first blush.

We do look forward to educating ourselves (and our readers) on the issue, though.

What do you think?  Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our comments section below …


Should South Carolina pass a statewide ban against female genital mutilation?

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