by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor, John Locke Foundation
A recent ruling by a federal judge puts nearly 10,000 girls in North Carolina in danger. The General Assembly could quickly address the problem with legislation in the upcoming special session.
The danger is female genital mutilation, a horrifying ritual practiced in some cultures that is exactly as it sounds. As NPR described it in 2017, female genital mutilation (FGM) is
the altering or injury of female genitalia for nonmedical purposes. In cultures that practice female genital mutilation, it’s viewed a rite of passage, performed for a variety of reasons. But the practice, which is outlawed in the United States, is also used to curb promiscuity and sexual pleasure and to exert control over women.
But a ruling out of federal court in Michigan struck down the federal law that made FGM a crime. It’s important to note that the ruling wasn’t based on finding any merit in the ritual, but rather on the issue of federalism. The federal government based its case on the Commerce clause, the Necessary and Proper clause, and even treaty power. Nevertheless, as stated in the ruling,
FGM is “local criminal activity” which, in keeping with longstanding tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.
As explained by Ilya Somin for Reason, leaving the terrible crime of FGM to the states to outlaw and punish is “also the case with the punishment of many other awful crimes, including rape, murder, and assault.”
Many states do, in fact, already forbid FGM. Last year, Virginia joined them, and the bill doing so passed unanimously.
North Carolina isn’t one of those states, meaning that the practice is now no longer outlawed here. According to Population Reference Bureau using U.S. Census Bureau data from the 2013 American Community Survey, the number of girls at risk of FGM in North Carolina approaches 10,000, which includes over 2,000 in the Raleigh metropolitan area and over 4,000 in the Charlotte metropolitan area.
This is a problem with a simple fix, however. The General Assembly should draft and pass legislation outlawing FGM as early as the special session beginning tomorrow.