Following a report published this month by Moscow-based human rights organization Russian Justice Initiative which criticized the apparently widespread practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in remote regions of the Russian Republic of Dagestan, a new bill has been introduced to punish the act with up to 10 years in prison.
The Moscow Times reported news of the bill late last week, which was introduced to parliament by United Russia Deputy Maria Maksakova-Igenbergs. FGM is the practice of partially or totally removing the external female genitalia or injuring the female genital organs for non-medical purposes.
"FGM is mutilation based on sexual discrimination," Maksakova-Igenbergs said to parliament. "Those carrying it out believe that they must do so to protect women from an 'immoral lifestyle.'"
Female genital mutilation is widely recognized as an issue in northern Africa, but increasing awareness is bringing the practice to light all over the world. Mary Wandia, the program manager for the FGM department of women's rights organization Equality Now, emphasized that the news out of Russia proves it can "no longer be seen as a supposedly 'African' issue."
"It is a human rights violation and extreme form of violence against women, which affects hundreds of millions of women and girls around the world; at least 200 million according to UNICEF," she wrote in an email to A Plus. "In the United States, new research from the CDC has shown that 513,000 American women and girls are affected by FGM."
Recent data on FGM from countries like Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Malaysia, Colombia and Yemen reinforces the idea that the practice is a global issue that needs immediate addressing.
Women who undergo FGM may have complications during childbirth, difficulty urinating, psychological trauma, fertility problems and chronic pain. Still, the practice goes on. In fact, the United States was forced to introduce the Girls Protection Act to stop U.S. citizens from taking girls abroad to undergo FGM.
"Although it is different depending on context, governments need to be held accountable in protecting and promoting the rights of girls in their country," Wandia said. "This includes enacting and enforcing laws against FGM alongside prevention and protection measures including education, prosecutions where necessary, and supporting FGM survivors physically, emotionally and psychologically."
Last summer, Nigeria made history when the country outlawed FGM. More than a year later, this news from Moscow proves that there is still plenty of work to be done.
To find out how you can help, visit Equality Now's Take Action page on FGM here.
Cover image via Shutterstock.