Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening remarks, as prepared, during the markup of H.R. 6100, the Strengthening the Opposition to Female Genital Mutilation (STOP FGM) Act of 2020:
"H.R. 6100, the 'Strengthening the Opposition to Female Genital Mutilation Act,' or 'STOP FGM Act,' would clarify current law to ensure that the horrific practice of female genital mutilation of minors is prohibited under federal law.
"FGM involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. According to the World Health Organization, it is a violation of the human rights of girls and women and has no medical benefits while carrying both immediate and long-term medical consequences for the women and girls who are subjected to it.
"In the United States, approximately 513,000 women and girls have experienced FGM or are at risk of being subjected to FGM and its consequences. And, worldwide, more than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually.
"Unfortunately, in 2018, in United States v. Nagarwala, a federal court determined that the existing statute banning FGM is unconstitutional because Congress lacked the authority to enact it. This legislation would overturn this misguided decision by explicitly stating the constitutional basis for banning FGM, primarily the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
"The bill would also more clearly define the underlying crimes, by adopting a definition of FGM that mirrors the definition adopted by the World Health Organization.
"The bill would make it a federal crime to knowingly (1) perform, attempt to perform, or conspire to perform, FGM on a minor; (2) for parents, guardians, or caretakers to consent to FGM being performed on a minor; or (3) to transport a minor for the purpose of the performance of FGM on the minor. The bill would also increase the statutory maximum term of imprisonment for a violation of the statute, from 5 years to 10 years.
"It is critical that we take steps to update the FGM statute to ensure that girls are protected from this brutal practice. To address the Nagarwala court’s concerns, H.R. 6100 explicitly makes use of Congress’s authority to regulate interstate and foreign commerce in setting forth the circumstances that would give rise to a prosecution for FGM, including: (1) the defendant or victim’s travel in interstate or foreign commerce; (2) the defendant’s use of a means of interstate or foreign commerce; (3) payment of any kind made using any means, channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce; and (4) the defendant’s use of a means of communication affecting interstate or foreign commerce.
"It is clear that FGM has a substantial effect on interstate commerce because, although illegal, there is—unfortunately—an established interstate and international market for the practice. Indeed, the fight against FGM is a global struggle. Federal law enforcement agencies acknowledge that FGM is a global issue and they work with international partners to eliminate this horrific practice.
"In 2018, Immigration and Customs Enforcement initiated Operation Limelight USA, an outreach program designed by ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit to educate travelers on the dangers and consequences of FGM. In addition, both the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section of the DOJ Criminal Division and the FBI work domestically to prosecute and investigate cases involving FGM.
"I commend Representative Jackson Lee for introducing this important bipartisan bill, which would protect all women and girls from the practice of FGM and would provide the Justice Department with an effective means of prosecuting those who commit this terrible act.
"I strongly support this legislation and I ask my colleagues to do the same."