One of the most important jobs we do at the AHA Foundation is our legislative effort to expand and strengthen United States federal and state legislation on issues such as female genital mutilation and domestic violence. You can help us in this effort by lending your voice to our campaign. Please let your congressman know you stand with the AHA Foundation in saying that every woman and child deserves access to education and basic human rights by contacting them about our outreach efforts listed below.
Federal Immigration Reform: Closing the ‘Forced Marriage’ Loophole
We are currently working to persuade federal legislators to address a dangerous loophole in the immigration legal framework: the absence of a minimum age requirement for U.S. citizens seeking to sponsor a foreign-born spouse for permanent residency or citizenship. The AHA Foundation believes that the absence of such a provision is being exploited by those who would force American girls into early and unwanted marriages.
Currently, there is no minimum age provision for a U.S. sponsor filing a petition for a foreign-born spouse. In effect, this means that teenage girls with U.S. citizenship may serve as vehicles through which families secure immigration status for individuals in their home countries. To close this loophole, we are strongly encouraging legislators to enact a minimum age requirement (18 years) for a sponsoring spouse in any package of comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
Please contact your representatives using our Legislative Outreach tool below and urge them to ensure that any new immigration legislation contains a provision of this nature. Download Sample Letter on Immigration Reform to Your Representative Here (Word)
NY: Female Genital Mutilation Reporting Bill
In New York, it is a crime to perform female genital mutilation on a girl or consent to having this procedure performed on one’s child. New York State law also requires the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to study the risks and dangers associated with FGM and to implement appropriate education and preventative outreach programs in communities that traditionally practice FGM. However, since the implementation of this law in 1997, OCFS has done little to comply with this requirement.
A bill pending in the New York State Assembly – A.2478 – seeks to compel OCFS to comply with the requirement that it study FGM in New York State by requiring the agency to submit an annual report to the Governor and Legislature detailing the results of their study and the community outreach activities engaged in during the previous year. Imposing this new reporting requirement on OCFS would help ensure that the agency is, in fact, devoting time and resources to investigating instances of FGM in the state and reaching out to the community in an attempt to prevent girls from being victimized. Such a report would also provide valuable information about how frequently FGM is performed in New York, shedding much-needed light on a practice shrouded in secrecy.
Contact your New York State representatives and urge them to vote in favor of A.2478. You can find your representatives here http://assembly.state.ny.us/mem/ and here http://www.nysenate.gov/. Download Sample Letter to Your Representatives Text for NY FGM Reporting Bill (Word)
The Violence Against Women Act
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that strengthened the criminal justice system’s response to violence against women and allocated funding for victims’ services. VAWA was first enacted in 1994 and was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. This legislation is currently due to be reauthorized again in 2011.
The AHA Foundation urges Congress to use the opportunity of the reauthorization to amend VAWA to include honor violence. When it was originally enacted in 1994, VAWA created a new federal crime to penalize perpetrators of domestic violence. However, this crime only covers violence against spouses, intimate partners, and dating partners. We propose that this law be amended to include violence against any family member. Doing so will make this crime applicable to cases of honor violence, such as the recent murder of Jessica Mokdad by her stepfather, Rahim Alfetlawi.
The purpose of VAWA is to protect women in the United States from all forms of violence and to impose strong punishment on those who perpetrate this violence. Contact your representatives using our Legislative Outreach tool below and urge them to amend the Violence Against Women Act to protect victims of honor violence. Download Sample Letter to Your Representatives Text for Violence Against Women Act (Word)
Criminalize Female Genital Mutilation in Every State
Currently, only 21 states and the federal government have passed laws prohibiting female genital mutilation. Yet studies suggest that approximately 228,000 girls and women in the U.S. have either suffered FGM or are at risk. FGM has significant and lasting medical consequences for victims. Immediately following the procedure, girls are at risk for severe pain, shock, bleeding, bacterial infection, and injury to nearby tissue. In the long term, girls and women who have suffered this procedure are at risk for recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, and complications during intercourse and childbirth.
Enacting new laws criminalizing FGM in every state would have a significant deterrent effect and would send a strong message that this conduct is not acceptable anywhere in the U.S.
The AHA Foundation achieved its first success in this campaign in February 2012 when New Jersey Senator Loretta Weinberg introduced our model FGM legislation. Below is a list of our achievements in state-by-state anti-FGM legislation thus far:
- In February 2012, New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg introduced our model FGM legislation, which was unanimously passed in the State Senate. We continue to reach out to members of the Assembly committee on Women and Children to encourage them to bring this bill up for a vote.
- The AHA Foundation worked with Louisiana state legislators to include the same kind of “vacation cutting” provisions recently added to the federal law. In May of 2012, Governor Jindal signed into law a bill criminalizing FGM in the state of Louisiana. This bill includes the AHA Foundation’s model language that also makes it a crime to remove a girl from the state for the purpose of FGM; the law went into effect August 1, 2012.
- In February of 2013, we provided written testimony in support of a proposed FGM bill in Kansas, which includes an extra-territoriality component and other provisions contained in our model legislation. The Bill was passed by the House of Representatives on March 1 and was unanimously passed by the Senate on March 27th. It was signed into law by Governor Brownback April 10, 2013.
- We are currently working with Representative Thomas Murt to enact similar legislation in Pennsylvania, which has no specific law banning the practice. On March 19, 2013, Rep. Murt introduced an FGM bill in the Pennsylvania House. We are pleased that after consulting with the AHA Foundation, the language of the bill has been strengthened to include “vacation cutting.” We continue to work with lawmakers ensure that this law is enacted.
Contact your state representatives and encourage them to introduce bills banning FGM in your state. Our model FGM legislation can be found here: AHA Foundation Model FGM Bill. Download Sample Letter to Your Representatives Text for Prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation (Word)
Increase Sentencing Guidelines for the Federal Crime of Female Genital Mutilation
Under the federal FGM crime (18 USCS § 116), the maximum sentence is only five years in custody.
The AHA Foundation believes that a five-year maximum sentence is far too lenient for a crime that causes devastating emotional harm, serious physical pain and injury, and in many instances, permanent disfigurement. The AHA Foundation believes the maximum sentence should be increased to at least ten years – the same maximum penalty available for perpetrators of domestic violence.
Contact your representatives using our Legislative Outreach tool below and urge them to strengthen the Federal Prohibition on Female Genital Mutilation by increasing the maximum sentence for this crime.
Contacting Your Legislators
Use our Legislative Outreach tool to find your legislators and send them a letter in support of the Acts above.