Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Six months ago, a federal judge sitting in Detroit struck down the federal statute making female genital mutilation a crime. According to the judge, the statute exceeded Congressional legislative authority.
The case giving rise to this opinion was initiated by the federal government. If usual procedure had been followed, the federal government would have appealed the case to defend the constitutionality of the statute.
But the usual rules apparently no longer apply.
Last week, rather than defending the FGM statute, the U.S. government decided to fold. Instead of pursuing an appeal to overturn the ruling, the U.S. Solicitor General penned a letter to Congress explaining that it would not defend the statute and calling on Congress to enact a revised version that would better withstand constitutional scrutiny.
One has to wonder what research led the U.S. government to this conclusion. Far from being indefensible, an amicus brief filed in the case by Equality NOW spelled out a strong argument in support of the statute's constitutionality.
Human rights and women's rights groups are quite naturally concerned about the message that the U.S. Government's capitulation sends. Equality Now’s blog post regarding the DOJ decision can be found here. Hilary Clinton also tweeted her reaction to the Government's decision:
"There is a federal law banning FGM. It is the Department of Justice’s responsibility to defend it. They’re choosing instead to abandon the fight for the health and human rights of women and girls around the world. If you agree that’s outrageous, let them know: 202-353-1555."