Snyder to weigh more bills to curb genital mutilation

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Victims of female genital mutilation in Michigan would have a longer time period to take the issue to court under a six-bill package the House approve Tuesday to outlaw and curb the practice.

The move comes after the Legislature last week approved a separate Senate bill package that makes cutting girls’ genitalia a state felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The practice is currently illegal under federal law and could lead to five years in prison.

But House and Senate Republicans and Democrats said the federal law didn’t go far enough and opted to increase penalties after news of the nation’s first-ever federal genital mutilation charges involving three Metro Detroit people broke last month.

Snyder will now consider both packages and is expected to sign the legislation. Together, the plans would make it a state felony to knowingly circumcise, remove or sew together any portion of the labia major, labia minor, clitoris or vaginal tissue of anyone under the age of 18 in Michigan.

The combined packages make it a 15-year felony to transport a girl from Michigan to another state or country to have her genitalia cut too.

News that a federal prosecutor alleges three Metro Detroit people may have been involved in cutting the genitalia of as many as 100 girls over a 12-year period inspired the legislation. 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.

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