Plan to stop female genital mutilation gains momentum
Lansing — A widely supported House plan to criminalize and deter female genital mutilation in Michigan is quickly gaining momentum a week after it was introduced.
The House Law and Order Committee took testimony from Republican and Democrat lawmakers who are sponsoring a package that would criminalize female genital mutilation under state law — currently only illegal under federal statute. It also would offer legal recourse to victims, extend the statute of limitations for survivors and revoke health care licenses of those convicted of the practice, among other changes.
Panel chairman Rep. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, said he’d like the group of lawmakers to approve the plan next week. If they did, it would be sent to the full House for a potential vote on the closely watched legislation inspired by the nation’s first ever federal genital mutilation charges.
“This has to be stopped,” Kesto said. “It’s underground. We don’t know about it. … It’s happening to young girls that maybe don’t know how to come out later as they become young … and so I think that we have to address it.”
The package comes after lawmakers in both chambers were outraged to learn that two suburban Detroit doctors were charged federally with cutting 7-year-old girls from Minnesota. The House plan already has dozens of state representatives in support of the measure, which sponsoring Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, has said is more comprehensive than a separate Senate plan approved earlier this month that also criminalizes the practice under state law.
The House legislation would make female genital mutilation a 15-year maximum prison sentence under state law, like the Senate plan. Female genital mutilation is a federal felony punishable by up to five years in prison, but Michigan lawmakers have said the federal penalty doesn’t go far enough.
But it would also offer new education programs, extend the statute of limitations for survivors seeking legal recourse and update the state’s police training program so law enforcement can recognize the signs of female genital mutilation, according to the legislation.
It would also require the state Department of Health and Human Service to develop and administer an education program about the dangers of female genital mutilation to new immigrant populations in Michigan.
Federal authorities charged Northville Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, Farmington Hills Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida Attar, of committing female genital mutilation. Nagarwala was the first person in the United States to be charged in federal court with alleged female genital mutilation.
Nagarwala’s lawyer has argued that the Northville doctor was not mutilating girls, but performing a religious ceremony that involved removing skin and burying it in the ground.
Kesto said he would like to amend the legislation to extend the statute of limitations for criminal lawsuits after Rep. Rose Mary Robinson, D-Detroit, suggested the change Tuesday. The bills as currently written only extend the statute of limitation for civil lawsuits.