House OKs bill to raise federal penalty for genital mutilation

In a bipartisan show of support, a proposed law to increase the federal penalty for female genital mutilation was passed unanimously by the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 5.

Sponsored by Rep. Dave Trott, a Republican from Birmingham, the Stopping Abusive Female Exploitation Act establishes a maximum 15-year prison sentence and implores states to implement reporting requirements for suspected cases of female genital mutilation. The federal law currently mandates a 5-year maximum prison penalty.

“The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 500,000 females in the United States have undergone or are at risk for genital mutilation. Just one victim is too many, and our federal laws must reflect this principle,” Trott said in a news release. “This is gender violence and oppression and it’s time for the federal government to penalize it as such.”

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House judiciary committee, called female genital mutilation “a barbaric practice (that) violates basic human rights in a horrific way.”

“The SAFE Act contains new tools to fight this human rights abuse, and I thank Congressman Trott for his efforts to protect young girls and women from this heinous crime. I applaud the House for approving this bill and call on the Senate to pass it without delay,” he stated.

The proposed federal penalty is in line with a Michigan law passed in June which raises the penalty to up to 15 years in prison.

Another proposed Michigan law related to female genital mutilation is headed to Gov. Rick Snyder’s review after its recent approval by the state Senate. Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucindo, the bill allows the termination of parental rights for having a child undergo the procedure.

Lucindo’s bill was inspired by a February incident at a Livonia medical clinic where two young girls from Minnesota allegedly had their genitals cut by Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, a former emergency room physician. Nagarwala, the girls’ mothers and five others are scheduled for a June trial in Detroit’s federal court.

“Nobody who forces their child to undergo (female genital mutilation) should be legally allowed to continue to be a parent to that child because they are clearly not concerned with the well-being of their own flesh and blood,” said Lucido, vice chair of the House law and justice committee. “Children who go through this barbaric act are brutalized mentally and physically, which is not justified for being a parent.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, female genital mutilation is sometimes referred to as female circumcision but offers no therapeutic value. Male circumcision can protect against infection, certain cancers and sexually-transmitted diseases from female partners. Females who undergo genital cutting face risks of infection, bleeding, urinary tract infections, post traumatic stress disorder and adverse effects on sexual well-being. They are also at increased risk of death during pregnancy.

Originally posted on Macomb Daily:

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