Snyder to consider outlawing female genital mutilation

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Female genital mutilation would be a 15-year state felony under a legislative package on its way to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Competing bill packages from House and Senate lawmakers would make cutting girls’ genitalia a state felony and drew wide support from both Democrats and Republicans as they scrambled to back it following news of the nation’s first-ever federal genital mutilation charges involving three Metro Detroit doctors last month.

It had been unclear which of the separate plans might go forward first. But that uncertainty ended Thursday, when the House gave final approval to the Senate plan.

Snyder hasn’t reviewed the legislation yet and does not have a position, according to his spokeswoman, Anna Heaton.

“We actually haven’t even been asked until now,” she said.

The Senate also approved the separate House plan Thursday, but the House won’t vote on the measure until next week, meaning Snyder may be able to review the Senate plan first.

House Republicans say they’re planning to do both, meaning the combined package will contain at least a dozen bills.

“Frankly, there’s a lot of passion from many members both in the House and the Senate that want to be involved and want to make sure that when we talk about female genital mutilation, that it does not happen,” said Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township. “The conduct is unacceptable and we won’t tolerate it in Michigan.”

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said weeks ago that he hoped the House would approve the Senate plan first.

Female genital mutilation is currently a 5-year felony under federal law. The Senate bills would extend that to 15 years and bill backers say it sends a message that female genital cutting is not permitted in Michigan.

The bills stop a person from knowingly circumcising, removing or sewing together the labia major, labia minor, clitoris or vaginal tissue of anyone under the age of 18 in Michigan.

The legislation would also create a 15-year felony to transport a girl from Michigan to another state or country to have her genitalia cut.

The legislation was prompted by news that a federal prosecutor alleges three Metro Detroit doctors may have been involved in cutting the genitalia of as many as 100 girls over a 12-year period. The three were charged last month with mutilating two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota.

Up to 200,000 girls in the United States are “at risk” of genital mutilation because they are of age or belong to a group that practices it, according to Lori Post, an associate professor at the Yale School of Medicine and director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at Northwestern University.

Northville Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was the first person charged with female genital mutilation in the nation last month in federal court. Federal prosecutors later charged Farmington Hills Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida Attar.

Prosecutors allege the cutting took place at Attar’s clinic in Livonia. Attar’s wife is accused of helping Nagarwala perform the procedure, according to court records. Farida Attar manages the clinic.

Their lawyer alleges Nagarwala was performing a religious ceremony in which a small amount of skin from the clitoris is removed and buried.

The two doctors and Attar’s wife are members of a local Dawoodi Bohra religious community who attend a Farmington Hills mosque whose members have ties to a mutilation scandal in Australia two years ago: The Australian scandal involved members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, a Muslim sect from India.

An estimated 513,000 women and girls in the United States are at risk or have already experienced it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 200 million girls and women have had their genitalia mutilated in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, according to the World Health Organization.


Twitter: @MikeGerstein