A Bill That Criminalizes Parents of FGM Victims Passes the MN House

Farhio Khalif testifies to a Minnesota House committee Wednesday, May 3, 2017, about a procedure she underwent as a child known as female genital mutilation, also called female circumcision. With her is Rep. Mary Franson of Alexandria, sponsor of a bill making the procedure a felony; parents could be prosecuted under the bill. Don Davis / Forum News Service

On Monday, May 15th, the Minnesota House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bill that puts harsher penalties on the parents who let their daughters undergo the female genital mutilation (FGM) surgery. The bill passed through house in less than two weeks with a 124-4 vote. Female genital mutilation is a cultural practice that limits a female’s sexual pleasure by cutting off a portion of the clitoris.

Representative Mary Franson, who sponsored the bill, said, “We’re not going to stand for little girls being harmed in such an egregious way. This topic may make you uncomfortable, but in no way is it as uncomfortable as what little girls are experiencing in the state of Minnesota and across the world.”

Representative Mary Franson (R – MN)

According to a CDC study, first-generation immigrant girls from Egypt, Ethiopia and Somalia were most at risk to have their genitals ritually cut, which the health organization called “a traditional practice in various parts of the world since antiquity.” The same study suggested that there might be up to half a million girls in the US who are at risk of the FGM procedure.

The bill was inspired by a recent event that made national news when two Minnesota girls were driven to Detroit by their mother to undergo the FGM procedure. Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was charged with six crimes, including conspiracy to bring the girls across state lines, carrying a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison. Anoka and Hennepin County have already opened child protection investigations in those two cases.

FGM is already a crime in Minnesota but the Bill holds parents accountable as well. If this Bill passes, Minnesota parents guilty of arranging FGM for their daughters can face felony charges and the loss of custody.

Opponents of the Bill are concerned about the severity of the penalties. Guilty parents could lose their children forever, face deportation if they are immigrants and face up to 7 years in prison.

“It’s a very drastic step,” said Rep. Susan Allen, DFL-Minneapolis. “It could actually make the problem worse”, she added. Representative Susan explained that girls and parents would be less likely to report such incidents in fear of losing a parent.

Representative Rena Moran of Saint Paul also raised concerns about the bill. She explained that FGM is bad but splitting families could be worse. In a very long floor speech, representative Moran explained that she did not want parents who don’t know any better to lose their children and get convicted of a felony. “We don’t want this to happen to a young girl,” she said. “But neither do we want to tear families apart because they didn’t know.” Moran was one of the few democrats who voted against the bill.

The bill went to the senate floor who has yet to vote on it. Representative Mary Franson who introduced the bill is very confident it will the pass the senate saying, “I don’t see any large roadblocks going forward, I think it will pass.”

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