The legal landscape for cutting children’s genitals is changing

As you probably know, in November 2018, a federal judge in Michigan declared the federal law prohibiting female genital mutilation (fgm) to be unconstitutional. In refusing to convict a group of defendants, including Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, who participated in the genital cutting of three little girls, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said Congress “overstepped its bounds” in prohibiting the practice in 1996, adding that FGM is a “’local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with long-standing tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.”

As of this writing, 28 states already have anti-fgm laws on their books. As a result of the ruling in Michigan, additional states are now rushing to get laws on their books to criminalize any genital cutting in girls under 18 years of age.

Ironically, these state laws are also ripe for being challenged as unconstitutional, especially if the states that implement them have any type of equal protection clause(s) in their respective constitutions. Yes, the conduct they seek to regulate is properly under states’ purview. But by denying equal protection to children who are not girls (i.e., boys and intersex children), they will be violating their own constitutions.

The action by state legislators provides a golden opportunity for those of us who want to see all children protected. Appropriately, intersex advocates have seized on this legislative opportunity by introducing bills in Iowa, Connecticut, and California that would criminalize cutting the genitals of an intersex child.

But what about boys? Unlike fgm, which sparks pretty much universal revulsion among Americans, both intersex “normalization” surgeries and “routine” infant male circumcision are embedded in current medical practice — and thus wear a cloak of legitimacy even though these surgeries are medically useless and violate the rights of the children who undergo them.

Nonetheless, the conversation is shifting dramatically. And here’s what you can do:

If your state lawmakers have approved or are considering implementing laws against the cutting of girls or intersex children, get active! (To see what’s happening in your state, click here.)
Contact your legislators, and tell them that all children — not just some children — must be protected. If your state has a clause in its constitution that lauds the principle of equality or equal protection, point out that any law that does not give boys the same protections violates that constitution.
Contact your governor.
Write to your local newspaper and your state’s largest newspaper.
Comment online.
You might say, for example: “I fully support the efforts of my state to protect girls [and intersex children — applicable in California, Iowa and Connecticut] from medically unnecessary genital mutilation. Boys need the same protection. “Routine” infant circumcision violates boys’ rights, and also violates our state Constitution, which says that the benefits and protections offered to one group cannot be denied to another.”
Search your state government’s website to track the status of relevant legislation. Show up at your State House to protest, and to read your statement.
And let us know how it goes. Share your efforts on Facebook, or send us a note to, so we can tell the world that the times are indeed changing.

Please visit our blog for more information on these developing state bills: www,

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