Amy Paulin’s Legislation Regarding Female Genital Mutilation Approved by Assembly and Senate

June 17, 2015

Albany – Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-88) is pleased to announce that A.134/S.3483, legislation she authored, was passed by both the State Assembly and State Senate on Tuesday and can now be sent to Governor Andrew Cuomo to be signed into law.

The purpose of the bill is to increase awareness and educate the public regarding the physical, sexual and psychological consequences of undergoing female genital mutilation, including the practice of “vacation cutting” in which girls are sent out of state or the country to undergo the procedure. Vacation cutting is typically done during a school vacation, without the consent of the child, and many times without the knowledge or permission of one or both of the parents.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to a harmful traditional practice, carried out largely on girls under the age of 18, involving the partial or total removal of the external genitals of girls and women. Procedures range from clitoridectomy, the removal of part or the entire clitoris, to infibulation, in which all of the outer genitalia are removed and the vagina is sealed, often with stitches, except for a small opening. FGM has no medical purpose or health benefits but in fact result in devastating physical, sexual and psychological problems, including severe bleeding, tetanus, sepsis, recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths, and infertility. It is illegal to perform FGM under federal and New York state law.

“This horrific and barbaric practice needs to be stopped completely,” Paulin said. “The physical pain and suffering is just the beginning of what these young women will endure for the rest of their lives. The psychological scars are permanent, impacting the women in ways that most people can’t even begin to imagine. The idea that this is a problem confined to third-world countries is just plain wrong. FGM happens here, in the United States, in New York, and it needs to come to an end.”

In 2013, New York had the second largest population of women and girls at risk of FGM in the U.S. with 48,000 (after California, with 57,000). The New York City metropolitan area (which includes Newark, Jersey City and parts of Connecticut and Pennsylvania), was the top metropolitan area with the greatest number of at-risk women and girls. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 125 million women and girls around the world are currently living with the consequences of FGM.

As the prevalence of FGM, including vacation cutting, rises, advocates, survivors and community service providers recognize that a proactive and coordinated approach is needed to prevent FGM. In addition to strengthening and enforcing laws that prohibit FGM, community outreach and education about what FGM is, how it may be carried out covertly, and the consequences of FGM is critical.

"Increasing public awareness will better enable us to prevent this unacceptable violation of human rights," Paulin said.

Andrew Lanza (R-24) sponsored the bill in the Senate.