(CNSNews.com) -- North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed into law on Aug. 1 a bill that criminalizes female genital mutilation (FGM), making the practice a Class C felony, punishable by a 44- to 182-month prison sentence. North Carolina is the 35th state to enact such a law and it goes into effect on Oct. 1.
“We applaud North Carolina lawmakers for making anti-FGM legislation a priority, and we appreciate Gov. Cooper signing the bill in a timely manner,” said attorney and child welfare advocate Elizabeth Yore, who heads EndFGMToday. “Now, North Carolina is the 35th state to outlaw this heinous practice, and that is evidence of a renewed commitment by state legislators to protect women and girls who are at risk."
"Amazingly, the#EndFGMToday state map of locations where FGM is a crime has become even more pink in the passing weeks and months, with nearly the entire East Coast having laws in place," said Yore. "To all legislators in every state who have voted ‘yes’ on laws like this, the women and girls in your state thank you! But to the remaining 15 states that do not have measures in place, #EndFGMToday will continue to relentlessly urge you to take the necessary steps to pass much-needed and strong laws.”
Some of the states without laws against FGM are Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Indiana and Washington.
The law, introduced by state Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth), now makes it "a Class C felony to: (1) knowingly mutilate female genitalia of a minor, as described; (2) for a parent, guardian, or other person responsible for a minor to consent to female genitalia mutilation, as described; or (3) for a parent, guardian, or other person responsible for a minor to knowingly remove or cause or permit the removal of the minor from the State for the purpose of having the minor's female genitalia mutilated, as described.
The law also states that one cannot appeal to "custom or ritual" to perform FGM. It "is not a defense that the person on whom the genital mutilation is performed believes the procedure to be a required custom or ritual, or that the person consented to the procedure," reads the legislation.
“I’m relieved to know that North Carolina will be among the states that have taken this step to protect young girls," said Sen. Krawiec. "This law sends the message that we are serious about protecting our young girls from the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation.”
According to a press release from EndFGMToday, "North Carolina ranks as 16th in the country for women and girls at risk for FGM." In addition, the Winston-Salem Journal reported that a "Brigham and Women’s Hospital report found that 4,287 girls and women, including 973 under age 18, in North Carolina come from families who immigrated here from countries that follow the practice. The report says those girls and women could be at risk of having female genital mutilation performed on them.”
"Female genital mutilation is recognized by both the World Health Organization and the United Nations as a human rights violation perpetrated upon little girls and women," stated EndFGMToday. "Additionally, over 200 million women worldwide have been subjected to this cruel practice, and the CDC estimates that 513,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation in the United States."