Maine State Representative Heather W. Sirocki’s Plea to Fellow Lawmakers to End Female Genital Mutilation

June 28, 2017:

This bill has been close to my heart for months.

And that is why it pained me to hear recently from several people indicating that they felt my motives and intentions were in question.

I also read several messages that accused me of refusing to meet with the affected community.

Untrue.

I did meet with the Executive Directors of organizations that deal with child abuse and sexual assault as well as the immigrant community.  I met with them publicly, in the Cross Café and in the Hall of Flags, months ago, in March.

I listened to them.

I was urged by them to abandon my bill. They felt an education and outreach program would be sufficient and preferable.

But Maine has already been identified as one of 8 high risk locations in the country and an education and outreach program has already been established through the federal government.

My bill does not abandon that outreach program.  My bill is addition to it. The bill’s intent was simply a prohibition of child abuse, and it could serve as a deterrent.

We could be and we should be sending a strong message to the affected communities that female genital mutilation is not legal in Maine. Period.

State prosecutors need state laws.

I urge your support of this amended bill that combines both a state prohibition and also an additional state run education/preventative outreach program.

The Maine Prosecutors Association has been in strong support. Please give them this tool for their tool box.

I hope we never have one arrest, and I hope we never have one prosecution. But we know that the effects of FGM are here in Maine as evidenced by the payments made to providers in our MaineCare billing system, and I also know from our state being selected as one of 8 high risk areas in the country to receive the federal outreach grant, and I also know from the horrific anecdotes from medical providers and others who are interacting with the affected community.

For those who remain unconvinced that this is happening here, I ask, “What harm is there in passing a law that is never used?” I also ask, “What if it saves one little girl from experiencing the pain and suffering from this horrific crime?”

In the words of a Somalian born woman who is living here in the US and who, at age 5, underwent FGM in Somalia, Ayaan Ali  said “It [FGM] happens and it happens a lot,” “People don’t really like talking about the genitals of little girls.”  “What we see is that people are willing to sacrifice the rights of these little girls at the altar of identity politics. It’s very difficult for people to talk about the cultures and the religions and the harmful practices that are done by minorities and this is happening to minority little girls,” she continued. “There are 500,000 little girls today in the United States who have either undergone or who are at risk of being subjected to this.”

Perhaps there is nothing I can do or say to earn your vote on this bill.

I have been told there is resistance to supporting this bill because it is viewed as a “hate bill.”

And you know what?  They’re right.

I hate child abuse.

I hate the thought of little girls, living in our midst that may be subjected to this painful form of child abuse and assault.

These little girls need our help. Please set your differences with me aside and help them.

It is my understanding that many organizations such as Equality Now, UNICEF, and the United Way fully support criminalizing female genital mutilation at the state level. Our esteemed colleagues in the Senate—both Democrats and Republicans—came together last week to unanimously support this bill. I can only deduce that there is one main reason to vote against protecting young girls: and that is personal animus towards me. That is never a valid reason.

Thank you Madam Speaker.

Heather W. Sirocki
State Representative
District 28 – Serving part of Scarborough

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