When authorities discovered that a pair of Michigan doctors were using a Livonia clinic to perform genital mutilations on young girls, they had to charge the suspects in federal court because Michigan had no state law outlawing the practice. Earlier this month, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill that will make female genital mutilation a felony in Michigan, but many other states, including Ohio, still have no state statute against it.
Prosecutors believe as many as 100 girls may have had their genitals mutilated at the clinic. The practice of cutting away a girl’s clitoris and other external genitalia is traditional in some cultures, including a small Indian Muslim sect to which the suspects in the Livonia case belong.
The case can and should be a wake-up call for state lawmakers across the United States to address the threat of this gruesome procedure and enact state laws to help prosecutors end it.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe more than half a million girls and women in this country are in jeopardy of being mutilated or have already been mutilated. Females in states with concentrations of immigrants from countries where the practice is prevalent are at a higher risk. This includes Ohio, which has a sizable Somali immigrant community.
If federal law prohibits female genital mutilation, why do states even need their own statutes?
Some human-rights organizations that track the practice believe that the families of girls from Minnesota and other states with anti-mutilation laws specifically chose Michigan doctors for the task because Michigan did not have such a law.
The new Michigan law makes it a felony — punishable by up to 15 years in prison — to knowingly cut or stitch up the genitals of girls younger than 18. The same punishment would apply to anyone who transports a girl out of the state for the procedure. And the law explicitly states that custom, tradition, or parental consent cannot be legal defenses in such cases.
Ohio lawmakers should take up the cause and draft an anti-mutilation law for Ohio that is as strong as Michigan’s.
Originally posted on The Blade: