Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the House Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Stopping Abusive Female Exploitation Act (H.R. 3317).

Chairman Goodlatte: The Stopping Abusive Female Exploitation Act, or SAFE Act,  addresses the internationally-recognized human rights violation of female genital mutilation (FGM). Alarmingly, FGM has grown in prevalence in the United States over the past two decades. According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 500,000 women and girls in the US have undergone the procedure or are at risk of having it inflicted upon them. FGM is a grotesque, barbaric practice that provides no health benefits for women and girls, and has long-lasting and harmful physical and psychological consequences.

Under current law, FGM is rightly a federal crime.  However, despite its ongoing occurrence in the United States, it has never been prosecuted until this year. In the first case of its kind, federal charges for committing FGM have been filed against two Michigan doctors for performing FGM on two 7-year-old girls.

The current penalty is insufficient, however, and does not reflect the barbaric and medieval nature of the crime.  That is why we are considering the SAFE Act today. This legislation enhances the statutory maximum penalty for FGM operations from five to 15 years. Furthermore, it expresses the sense of Congress that states should enact laws that require health care professionals, teachers, and other school employees to report instances of suspected FGM to local law enforcement agencies.  The criminals committing this horrific act against small children are not doctors, they are butchers.  And state medical licensing boards should act accordingly.

This Committee’s core mission is to protect the health and well-being of our citizens, and this legislation is in furtherance of that mission. As a father and grandfather, I can think of no more important work than protecting our children from those who seek to do them harm.

I commend Representative Dave Trott, an alumnus of this Committee, and Representative Carolyn Maloney, for introducing the SAFE Act and for their tireless efforts on behalf of FGM victims. I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.