Maine voting on bill to make female genital mutilation a crime

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - The push to bring female genital mutilation (FGM) to an end throughout the nation continues -- but this time all eyes are on Maine. If the House fails to call up the bill again on Wednesday Maine could end up being "a safe harbor for mutilators," as Liz Yore head of the  End FGM Today initiative described. 

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Lawmakers are back at the State House Wednesday, where a vote is expected to happen on the bipartisan bill (L.D. 745). The bill would make the practice of FGM a crime in the state of Maine. 

Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control show that some 500,000 women and girls in the United States have either already been a victim to FGM or are at risk in the future. Metropolitan areas with a high number of immigrants such as California, New York, Minnesota and Washington, D.C. have the largest amount of FGM survivors and victims, data shows. Maine is among those states due to the large Somali population, Yore explained.   

Although the practice has been prohibited under federal law since 1996, only 25 states have enacted laws. The first federal prosecution did not happen until 2017 when two Michigan doctors performed FGM on two 7-year-old girls. 

The bill has been passed by Democrats and Republicans unanimously in the Senate, however, the hold-up has been in the House.  

Some of the opponents of the bill believe the passing of the bill could make Maine immigrants who were victim to FGM uncomfortable.

"The excuses are empty. They (lawmakers) are worried about being politically correct," Yore added. 

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Even though some may believe the banning of FGM on a federal level should suffice, Yore stressed the importance of criminalizing the practice on a state level.

" ...It's so important to criminalize this in criminal code. If female genital mutilation is not on the list people don’t report it," Yore stated. 

"Maine impacts the whole country, that's why it's so important to get this in the law books," she elaborated. 

Yore hopes the bill will pass, however she will remain hopeful for the future no matter Wednesday's outcome.

End FGM Today is focused on building a cyber movement, and educating the public about FGM nationwide. 

FGM is defined as all practices involving partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or any other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is a cultural practice and despite common beliefs, has no ties to any religion.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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