Maine Has the Opportunity Now to Protect Girls and Women from Female Genital Mutilation
After Michigan Makes FGM a Felony Punishable Up to 15 Years in Prison, Maine Lawmakers Will Vote Soon on Similar Law; #EndFGMToday
Washington, D.C.—The state of Maine will soon have an opportunity to protect girls and women from the horrors of female genital mutilation (FGM), as lawmakers there are preparing to vote on a bill that would make the barbaric practice a crime in Maine.
Advocates for the safety of girls and women are calling on Maine lawmakers to stand up for girls and women when L.D. 745 comes up for vote as early as July 20—Veto Day. In advance of the vote, Maine citizens are being urged to contact their legislators and ask them to pass the bill to protect girls and women from such an abusive practice. Democratic lawmakers, especially, are waffling on voting for the bill. Find the contact information for Maine legislators from both the Senate and the House here.
“There is an ongoing battle in the Maine Legislature over whether to criminalize female genital mutilation,” said Elizabeth Yore, head of a new initiative, End FGM Today. “Why a battle? The mutilation of little girls’ genitals defies all standards of humanity, and cries out as a hideous violation of human rights according to the United Nations and World Health Organization. Yet, some Maine legislators are bowing down to the dictates of the ACLU, which opposes criminalizing FGM. Will Maine follow 26 other states and protect little girls from FGM or will the ACLU usurp the will of the people of Maine?”
Maeghan Maloney, District Attorney for Kennebec and Somerset Counties in Maine and a passionate advocate for this issue, said prosecutors in the state do not feel confident that they can charge perpetrators committing Female Genital Mutilation without the passage of this bill, for two reasons:
“First, while female genital mutilation is a barbaric disfiguration bearing no resemblance to male circumcision, there are prosecutors who argue that it is not aggravated assault when the parents and children consent,” she said. “The prosecutors would like clear guidance as to whether or not to charge this mutilation as a crime. Clear statues without guesswork are important for state prosecutions. Yes, it is already illegal federally, but the district attorney offices try, by far, the most criminal cases in Maine.
“Second,” Maloney continued, “there is a debate among prosecutors as to whether the Law Court’s analysis in State v. Kargar overturning a gross sexual assault conviction could be used to overturn an assault conviction when the assault is female genital mutilation. Assault is offensive physical contact. Can I prove the assault is offensive when the parents have given permission? Again, clarity would be extremely helpful, and that clarity would come from a law specifically making female genital mutilation a crime in Maine.”
Maloney also shared in recent testimony with the Criminal Justice Committee an article by National Public Radio, titled “Because I Was Harmed.”
“This article makes it clear that female genital mutilation has been occurring in white, Christian communities in the United States—hidden and unreported for years,” Maloney told the Committee. “Mutilation is not a religious practice. I hope the debate will not criticize a religion or ethnic group because it crosses over all religions and ethnicities.”
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed a bill into law that makes FGM a felony in that state, punishable by up to 15 years in prison and up to a $25,000 fine. The Michigan law stems from a case of female genital mutilation that happened in Livonia, where four, including two doctors and a physician’s wife, are facing federal charges for their alleged roles in the mutilation of two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota, the Detroit Free Press reported. With the signing of the law, Michigan joins 25 other states that have passed anti-genital mutilation laws over the past two decades.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half a million girls and women in America have already been subjected to such mutilation—or are at risk of having it inflicted upon them. Reportedly, some of them live in the state of Maine.
Previously, the Maine Senate overwhelmingly voted to approve a ban on female genital mutilation, but the Maine House narrowly rejected a similar bill.
Learn more at www.EndFGMToday.com and on social media at #EndFGMToday about FGM and efforts underway in the U.S. to stop it.