The issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) has been raging through the media like wildfire over the last few weeks. Ever since three people in Michigan, two of whom are doctors, have been charged with performing this illegal procedure on minors here in the Mitten state, it has been the topic of choice for news outlets, social media platforms, and also apparently, the Michigan legislature.
A few days ago, the Michigan Senate introduced a bill which would outlaw any form of genital cutting performed on underage girls within the state. Although the practice is already illegal on a federal level, proponents of the bill say that making it state law as well would increase the severity of the punishments for those convicted of FGM in Michigan, and would also speed up the process of prosecution.
For those of you not familiar with the FGM case going on in Detroit right now, it started with a single female doctor, 44-year-old Jumana Nagarwala of Northville was charged with performing genital cuttings on two young girls from Minnesota, aged 6 and 8. Less than a week late, another set of charges were brought, this time against Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida Attar who are accused of assisting Nagarwala. Since then, several more victims have been located.
Senate Bill 337 establishes female genital mutilation as a crime, while SB 338 spells out the sentencing guidelines. If this bill makes it into law, FGM would be a 15 year felony, as opposed to the 5 year sentence handed down by the federal government. The reason for the decision to stick with a harsher penalty, says Senator Margaret O’Brien, is that they want to send a clear message that this type of crime will be treated in the same way as sexual assault against a child.
Senator Rick Jones calls the practice ‘demonic’.
He also says that any form of genital mutilation performed on girls is a “violation of human rights” and an “extreme form of discrimination against girls and women.” Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, a co-sponsor on the bill, has gone on the record to state that FGM is ‘barbarism’ and that we have no place for it in Michigan.
Currently there are 24 states in the U.S., as well as the federal government, who have laws on the books making FGM illegal. According to the United Nations Population Fund, about “200 million girls and women alive today are believed to have been subjected to FGM” and rates are steadily growing. However, here in the US, FGM is quite rare, being limited to small underground pockets where for cultural and religious reasons, certain people still practice this particular rite.
Senate hearings are scheduled to continue this week. Legal, medical and sociology experts will be testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in favor of making FGM illegal in Michigan. Until then, we want to make clear to all of our readers that while FGM isn’t illegal in Michigan under state law, anyone caught performing genital cuttings or other medically unnecessary surgeries aimed at altering the genitals of a female minor, will be prosecuted and severely punished. This acts are viewed as being forms of sexual assault and child abuse in Michigan, and could result in CPS involvement in your family in addition to severe criminal penalties.