Criminalize Female Genital Mutilation In The United States? Not So Fast, Say Democrats

Criminalize Female Genital Mutilation In The United States? Not So Fast, Say Democrats

If there were any issue that Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on unilaterally in spite of the current political climate, one would expect it to be the need to ban female genital mutilation in the United States.

Not a chance.

Key facts about Female genital mutilation (FGM):

  • FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
  • The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women.
  • Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
  • More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated.
  • FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.
  • FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.

According to UNICEF, the pre-Medieval practice continues to be performed on a majority of girls in the predominantly Muslim countries of Somalia, Egypt, Sudan, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, Guinea, and parts of Yemen, India and Pakistan.

In Minnesota, a bill that would ban the practice, known as “female circumcision” in places such as Somalia, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen and elsewhere in the Third World, was passed overwhelmingly in the House but died in the Senate, WND reports.

Now in Maine, a similar bill, LD 745, is being put up for a second vote in the state house after failing in late June. The state Senate passed the bill but the House rejected it, forcing another vote on an amended bill set for July 20.

In both states, it is primarily progressive Democrats pushing back against the criminalization of FGM. Many have even refrained from calling the practice what it is – female genital mutilation – opting for the more sanitized “genital cutting” or “female circumcision.”

The issue of FGM has been front and center since two doctors – Fakhruddin Attar and Jumana Nagarwala – were arrested in April in the Detroit area and charged with mutilating the genitals of two 7-year-old Somali girls, who were delivered to the doctors by their parents in Minnesota.

In the Detroit case, the attorney for Nagarwala has already announced she will argue her client’s case on the basis of religious freedom – that it is her client’s right to carry out the procedure on little girls because it is part of their religious beliefs and, therefore, protected by the First Amendment.

Federal prosecutors have said the two young Somali victims represent the “tip of the iceberg” and that upward of 100 girls have likely been victimized by the two Detroit doctors.

“This reminds me of how quickly we lost the same-sex marriage issue,” observed former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. “We had a tiny window of opportunity to pass legislation on same-sex marriage, but society changed so quickly and accommodated what was always considered as wrong. As hard as it is to believe, people could be deluded by this argument [of religious freedom to perform FGM]. Legislators need to work fast.”

If passed, Maine would join 24 other states that already have similar statutes on their books.

But Democratic lawmakers are waffling on voting for the bill, many of them caving to pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, which has come out against anti-FGM bills in several states, including the one in Maine.

While the ACLU does “not support the practice of FGM, we do not believe that a criminal approach in Maine will contribute to any legitimate efforts to eradicate the practice,” said Oamshri Amarasingham in testifying before the state legislature’s Committee of Criminal Justice and Public Safety.

Sirocki and the bill’s other supporters are urging all Maine residents to contact their state lawmakers and urge them to vote “yes” on L.D. 745, for women and girls and against the ACLU.

The Detroit case is the first ever prosecuted under a 1996 federal law against female genital mutilation.

Federal prosecutors have said the two young Somali victims represent the “tip of the iceberg” and that upward of 100 girls have likely been victimized by the two Detroit doctors.

More than 513,000 girls and young women are at risk of FGM in the United States, almost all of them from immigrant families who entered the country from Third World, mostly Muslim nations such as Somalia, Sudan and Afghanistan.

See data on FGM in the U.S., how and why the procedure is performed.

Read the full story here.

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