Although it’s an all-too-common practice that victimizes young girls in some parts of the world, wanting to put a stop to female genital mutilation seems like a no-brainer in America. But that’s not the case for some people in Wyoming.
The Wyoming legislature has proposed a bill, designated HBO127, which seeks to define female genital mutilation as a form of aggravated assault and battery. If it becomes law, it would also prohibit medical professionals from performing any such procedure, require that female genital mutilation (FGM) be reported as child abuse, and mandate that those convicted of the practice must be added to the state’s child abuse register, among other things.
The bill enjoys wide support among both Democrats and Republicans. However, it is being attacked from an unexpected source: the Wyoming Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (WCADVSA). The WCADVSA has accused the bill of seeking to impose “draconian limits on transgender people.”
Female genital mutilation involves the altering or removal of parts of a girl’s genitalia. Under a strict definition of the term, gender-altering surgery could be seen as a type of FGM. However, Wyoming’s bill already takes that into account, declaring such an operation legal if the person undergoing it is over 18 and gives her consent.
It is rare for a doctor to perform gender-altering surgery on anyone under 18. Nevertheless, Representative Sara Burlingame (D-Cheyenne) objected to the language of the gender alteration section of the bill, claiming that it will “bog this bill down with something that’s going to stop it in its tracks.”
Tara Muir, Policy Director of the WCADVSA, also objected, opining that “Wyoming cannot be the first state with such draconian limits on transgender people.”
Some discussion of the debate on Twitter referenced Renee Bergstrom, an American woman who has written negatively about her experience with FGM as a child while she was being raised in a religious cult in Oklahoma. Some tweets blasted Bergstrom for using the term “female genital mutilation,” on the grounds that “not all people with vaginas are women, and not all women have vaginas.”