(CNSNews.com) – On Wednesday, June 19, the Pennsylvania Senate passed House Bill 315, which would classify Female Genital Mutilation as a first-degree felony in the Keystone State.
The Pennsylvania House passed the legislation on April 9, and the bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Thomas P. Murt, told CNSNews.com he is “very confident” that Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf will sign the legislation into law.
Commenting on the bill’s passage in the Senate on Facebook, Rep. Murt wrote, “This is a major victory for the women of Pennsylvania. I want to thank my colleagues in both the House and Senate for taking this strong and unified stand for the right to be safe from this kind of abuse.”
“FGM is a crime of violence against women,” said Rep. Murt. “With Gov. Tom Wolf’s signature the law will explicitly state that. House Bill 315 makes it a crime to cut or allow someone to circumcise or excise the genitals of a female minor. Under the bill, FGM would be a felony of the first degree.”
“Gov. Tom Wolf must sign or veto legislation within 10 days after transmittal, or it becomes law without his signature. Murt said that the Governor has been very supportive of the legislation and he is confident that Wolf will sign it in the next couple of days.
Currently, 32 states have laws against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), but women and girls are unprotected in 18 states, including Pennsylvania.
Murt added, “My bill has been endorsed by the AHA Foundation, established by human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali in 2007 to promote freedom from FGM, honor violence and forced marriages.”
He continued, “According to the group, more than 500,000 women in the United States are at risk of this procedure—166,000 women under age 18. The organization ranks Pennsylvania 11th in the nation for this risk, with more than 19,000 women at risk for the procedure, 6,000 of them under the age of 18.”
Last month, Rep. Scott Perry, together with EndFGMToday, called on the Pennsylvania Senate to pass legislation expressly criminalizing FGM. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation in April to ban the practice.
“Now’s the time to stand up for the voiceless, and criminalize the horrific practice of Female Genital Mutilation once and for all,” said Rep. Perry. “Given the Department of Justice’s decision, both the federal government and each state must work within their constitutional jurisdiction to protect women and young girls at risk for FGM/C. It’s imperative that the State Senate take up proposals to stop the unconscionable and reprehensible practice of FGM/C.”
“ I’m grateful to State Representative Thomas P. Murt (R-Montgomery and Philadelphia Counties) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rob W. Kauffman (R-Franklin County) for their diligence in this matter,” said Perry.
FGM is recognized by both the World Health Organization and the United Nations as a human rights violation perpetrated upon little girls and women. More than 200 million women worldwide reportedly have been subjected to this cruel practice.