Michigan FGM Case Prompts Federal Legislation

Picture of a courthouse
Michigan’s FGM case has made international news, and affected legislation in other states and on a national level

While it’s easy to see how federal legislation affects each of the 50 states, it can sometimes be harder to note the effects that individual state issues have on federal legislation. However, in the wake of Michigan’s ongoing female genital mutilation case, which is the first the nation has ever seen, the effects on the country’s law and consciousness has been profound.

After Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, an emergency room doctor at Henry Ford hospital, was arrested for having performed genital cuttings on two young girls, the case exploded. From there, another three people were accused, and several parents in the Dawoodi Bohra community lost custody of their children. The case made nation headlines, and the subject was up for discussion on practically every TV talk show.

Here in Michigan the case prompted swift, bi-partisan reaction.

New laws were passed making FGM a 15 year felony in the Mitten-state. But the reaction was nationwide. The state of Virginia also geared up their legislation, and passed new laws making any type of non-medically necessary genital cutting on girls illegal. Given the huge number of Dawoodi Bohra residents in Virginia, state lawmakers said they believed it was critical. Texas followed suit, and now Maine, Alaska and Massachusetts are addressing the issue as well.

In addition, the FBI opened an investigation into FGM practises in the US. Based on their discoveries, they opened their first ever case against Nagarwala and the doctor she worked with performing FGM on young girls, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar. However, agents say that the investigation has revealed that thousands of girls are at risk for FGM here in the US. They have also since opened investigations into potential suspects operating in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

The impact on national law is significant…

However, the way in which Michigan’s FGM case seems to have had the most lasting impact on the nation was through the law. Although female genital mutilation has been illegal in the U.S. for 21 years now, and more than half of the states also have laws on the books criminalizing the process, some people believe more should be done. One of those people is Congressman Dave Trott, a Republican from Michigan,

Congressman Trott wants federal law changed to include a much more harsh penalty for parents who allow their daughters to be cut, and doctors who perform the procedure. On his Facebook page, Trott explained that his legislation would “TRIPLE the federal penalty for female genital mutilation.” He also went on to say that he is “working hard to protect our girls and eradicate this barbaric practice from our community.”

Just days ago this bipartisan bill was approved by the House with a vote of 409 to 0. The Act, entitled Stopping Abusive Female Exploitation (SAFE) applies to any form of non-medically necessary cutting of the genitals, of girls and women under the age of 18. Representative Carolyn Malony of New York co sponsored the bill, and in addressing the House, said that she was grateful to Trott for championing the issue.