FGM practitioners in Michigan face harsh new penalties
Following the arrest last month of Muslim Dr Jumana Nagarwala, accused of mutilating girls for religious reasons, the Michigan Senate yesterday approved legislation making FGM a state felony.
Doctors who perform the procedure and parents who transport a child to undergo the surgery now face jail sentences of up to 15 years.
A sponsor of the legislation, State Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rick Jones, above, cited recent expert testimony before his panel describing Michigan as a “hotspot” for female genital mutilation due to its large community of immigrants from countries where such surgery is still routinely performed. He said:
It’s been hidden. But now that we’re aware, we want to make a very strong statement to the world – never again in Michigan.
Genital mutilation of girls, typically involving removal of all or part of the clitoris, is banned by several international treaties but remains a common cultural or religious practice in some African countries, including Somalia, Sudan and Egypt.
Aside from carrying tougher penalties than federal statute, Michigan’s legislation would allow arrests and prosecution by local law enforcement.
It also would close a federal loophole by outlawing transportation of girls under age 18 within state boundaries for purposes of undergoing genital surgery, Jones said. Parents or guardians who bring children to Michigan from abroad or are found to have taken them overseas for such procedures could likewise be charged.
The federal law, enacted in 1996, targets practitioners of female genital mutilation as well as individuals who carry a child across state lines to undergo the procedure.
Jones said female genital mutilation bans have been passed or were under consideration in several other states, including Minnesota and Texas, but he believed Michigan’s would be the toughest.
The World Health Organization has estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone genital mutilation, which can cause lasting health problems.