The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to ban female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM involves the partial or total removal of external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.

House Bill 170 is sponsored by State Rep. Rod Scott (D-Fairfield).

The legislation “would establish the crime of female genital mutilation, would provide criminal penalties, and would provide an exception only under limited circumstances when medically necessary.”

Female genital mutilation as defined in this legislation, “Means to remove, cut, circumcise, excise, mutilate, infibulate, or reinfibulate, in whole or in part, the labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris of a female under the age of 19 years. The term includes a clitoridectomy. The term also includes any other harmful procedure to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, including incising, piercing, scraping, nicking, cauterizing, burning, and scarring.”

Scott’s legislation would make it a Class B felony to perform FGM on a female under the age of 19.

Some 39 states have banned female genital mutilation. There was a federal law but a Michigan federal judge overturned that legislation after some minorities sued, arguing that it is their custom and the law discriminates against them.

This is a common practice in parts of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

According to the World Health Organization an estimated 200 million women and girls worldwide have undergone “treatment.” A girl after FGM will not find sex pleasurable. The thinking behind the practice therefore is that that the girl will be less likely to embarrass her family by fornicating or committing adultery.

FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.

The World Health Organization (The WHO) is opposed to all types of FGM and is opposed to health care providers performing FGM.

“FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women," The WHO website states. "It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against girls and women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person's rights to health, security and physical integrity; the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; and the right to life, in instances when the procedure results in death.”

Rep. Scott brings this legislation, as have other State Representatives, every year. It passes the House but never is passed by the Alabama Senate. Some oppose banning female genital mutilation on the grounds that it does not respect the cultural practices of people from the 20 countries where it is commonly practiced.

HB170 now goes to the Senate for their consideration.

Thursday will be day 12 of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email