Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

A young girl who was affected by FGM poses for a photograph.
Tanya Bindra/UNICEF
Girls & Women

Female Genital Mutilation Is Now Criminalized in Ohio


Why Global Citizens Should Care
FGM is an internationally recognized human rights violation. Ohio just criminalized the cultural tradition that affects many African immigrants living in the state. You can now join us in taking action this issue here

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is officially criminalized in Ohio, Cincinnati Public Radio reports

FGM is the cruel process of intentionally altering or injuring the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Ohio Governor John Kasich signed the SB214 bill Friday, which makes performing FGM a felony punishable by fines and jail time. 

Take Action: Urge Leaders to Step Up for Women’s Rights and Health

“All of us involved with the #EndFGMToday movement are thankful that Ohio lawmakers have seen the importance of outlawing FGM in their state,” said Elizabeth Yoremm, head of the advocacy group EndFGMToday. 

FGM is a tradition practiced across cultures and religions around the world. In Ohio, it’s most likely to affect immigrants from Somalia and Ethiopia. Columbus, Ohio, has the second largest Somali immigrant population in the US.

Ohio is the 28th state in the US to criminalize FGM. The practice has been illegal on a federal level since 1996, but a federal judge dismissed charges in a Detroit, Michigan, case in November, stating that the responsibility to regulate the harmful practice falls on individual states.

Read More: FGM Among Us

FGM is performed on girls as young as 7 years old around the world and can have negative long-term effects. It is thought to help a young girl transition to adulthood and marriage but does just the opposite. The practice is an internationally recognized human rights violation that threatens women’s health — it causes severe bleeding, higher risk of HIV transmissions, infections, infertility, complications in childbirth, and an increased risk of newborn deaths. 

Sarah Hayford, a sociologist at Ohio State University, told Cincinnati Public Radio that officials cannot measure exactly how many Somalis are at risk of FGM in Ohio, since immigrants often change their practices when they move to other countries. But 24,320 girls and women are at risk for FGM in Ohio according to the Population Reference Bureau, and 12,079 of them are under the age of 18.

Read More: FGM in the US: The Hidden Crime Next Door

The Centers for Disease Control estimates over 500,000 women and girls are at risk for FGM across the US. Around the world, at least 200 million girls and women have undergone some form of FGM. 

While criminalization helps stop people who are already considering not performing FGM anymore, Hayford says it often pushes the practice underground rather than stopping it altogether.