Maine Lawmakers Voting Soon on Similar Law That Would Make FGM a Crime and Protect Girls and Women; #ENDFGMTODAY
Washington, D.C.—The state of Michigan now recognizes female genital mutilation (FGM) as a felony in that state, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, thanks to a bill signed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder earlier this week. Now, Michigan joins at least 24 other states that have passed anti-genital mutilation laws over the past two decades.
The law stems from a case of female genital mutilation that happened in Livonia, Mich., in April, reported the Detroit Free Press, and the governor said that “(t)hose who commit these horrendous crimes should be held accountable for their actions, and these bills stiffen the penalties for offenders while providing additional support to victims. This legislation is an important step toward eliminating this despicable practice in Michigan while empowering victims to find healing and justice.”
Advocates for the safety of girls and women are calling on the state of Maine to follow suit, as a vote there on a similar female genital mutilation bill could come as soon as July 20 in the state Senate. The sponsor of L.D. 745, State Rep. Heather Sirocki, said the Senate has indicated it will amend the bill once more, then the House could bring a vote forward next week.
Maine citizens are being urged to contact their legislators and ask them to pass the bill to protect girls and women from such a barbaric and abusive practice. Democratic lawmakers, especially, are waffling on voting for the bill. Find the contact information for Maine legislators from both the Senate and the House here.
“Female genital mutilation is a problem that has been unreported, but we all know it exists,” said Andrea Boland, a former Democrat legislator who is now fighting for this issue. “There seems to be no reason to not call it what it is, and that is to call it a crime in the state of Maine. Having spent eight years as a state legislator, it never occurred to me that there would be any resistance at all to this sort of protection for young girls. I was appalled to realize there was, especially if we are as committed to women’s health as we say we are.”
Previously, the Maine Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve a ban on female genital mutilation, but the Maine House narrowly rejected a similar bill. The revised bill is back with the Senate for a potential vote and is expected to pass again. Sirocki added that some of her fellow lawmakers are using excuses for not voting for the bill, including that current laws already cover the abuse and that the practice is not happening in Maine.
“ENDFGMTODAY.com applauds Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signing the criminalization of female genital mutilation into law,” said Elizabeth Yore, head of a new initiative, End FGM Today. “The swift and bold action by the Michigan legislature to protect little girls from this brutal sexual assault demonstrates the bipartisan nature of this legislation. Democrats and Republicans alike understand that states must make a stand to outlaw FGM in order to send a strong message to mutilators. As a legal child advocate, I know that this law signals a compelling message that this barbaric practice will not be tolerated in the state of Michigan and will be vigorously prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is essential that states pass child abuse criminal laws to protect children who are entitled to be free of this heinous practice. This law sets down a legal benchmark that labels FGM as felonious criminal activity, which will not be tolerated in the state of Michigan.
“This new Michigan law sends a strong and unmistakable notice to the community that FGM is a felony, punishable by imprisonment for up to 15 years and/or a fine of not more than $25,000,” Yore continued. “Furthermore, the law clearly states that parental consent to the operation is not an affirmative defense to prosecution. Finally, any health care provider who violates this law will be at risk for revocation of their professional license. The eyes of the nation now turn to the Maine Legislature that will vote on July 20 whether to criminalize FGM in the state of Maine. Will Maine follow Michigan’s lead or will it ignore the cries of little girls?”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half a million girls and women in America have already been subjected to such mutilation—or are at risk of having it inflicted upon them. Reportedly, some of them live in the state of Maine. ‘
In Michigan, two doctors and a physician’s wife are facing federal charges for their alleged roles in the genital cuttings of two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota, the Detroit Free Press reported. “The defendants, who have all denied engaging in genital mutilation practices, are part of a small Indian-Muslim sect that was at the center of a prosecution in Australia last year that ended with three people each getting 15-month prison sentences,” the article continued.
Learn more at www.EndFGMToday.com and on social media at #EndFGMToday about FGM and efforts underway in the U.S. to stop it.