There's a new push in Minnesota to hold parents responsible if they knowingly allow their daughter to undergo a female genital mutilation procedure.
This comes after a doctor from Michigan was charged last month with performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota. State law makes it illegal for doctors to perform FGM, but it doesn't hold parents responsible for subjecting their daughters to this practice.
After hearing about this case, Republican Rep. Mary Franson authored a bill that would require cases of FGM be reported as an act of child abuse, and if a parent or guardian knowingly consents to the procedure, they could be charged with a felony and face up to five years in prison if convicted.
“Minnesota needs to send a strong message that we won't stay silent and that the punishment will be harsh, including the potential loss of parental custody of these innocent victims,” Franson said in a statement after introducing the bill earlier this week.
The House bill unanimously passed a committee Wednesday in what Franson called a "significant step towards further criminalizing this heinous act," a news release says.
The committee deadline has passed, which means no new bills can move forward unless they get a waiver – a meeting for that is scheduled for Thursday. If the bill gets the waiver, it will move on to a second committee. Franson says the bill could get a House floor vote as early as next week, adding the bill "has a real chance to be signed into law this year."
Female genital mutilation
The World Health Organization says female genital mutilation and cutting, which has no known health benefits, is a violation of human rights of girls and women, noting more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut.
The practice is most common in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, but it also happens in the United States.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in 2012 said 513,000 women and girls in the U.S. were at risk of FGM – that’s more than three times higher than an estimate based on 1990 data.
And of those in America, girls and women in Minnesota are some of the most at risk of being subject to FGM. A 2016 report by the Population Reference Bureau says 44,293 girls and women in the state are potentially at risk – the third highest of all states – including 37,417 girls and women in the Twin Cities alone.
The bureau says Minnesota has a “disproportionate” number of people at risk of FGM because of the state’s large Somali immigrant population. And the CDC notes the “rapid growth” in the number of immigrants from countries that practice genital mutilation and cutting coming to the U.S. has led to the increase in the number of girls and women who are at risk of FGM nationwide.
“The FBI, along with its law enforcement partners, are committed to doing whatever necessary to bring an end to this barbaric practice and to ensure no additional children fall victim to this procedure,” Special Agent in Charge David Gelios said in a statement.
For more information on FGM and efforts to end the practice globally, click here.