Senate unanimously approves bills to stop female genital mutilation

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday approved legislation that would help end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the state.

Senate Bills 337 and 338, sponsored by Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, and Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, would ban the practice of FGM in Michigan. SBs 368 and 369, sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, would prohibit someone from transporting a girl to have this procedure carried out. Under the bills, both crimes would be felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“While this horrible procedure is against federal law, Michigan doesn’t have a specific law on the books prohibiting it,” Schuitmaker said. “We need to give law enforcement and prosecutors every available tool to end this gruesome practice. We should be prepared to handle the issue on the state level and not have to rely on federal prosecution.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FGM refers to cutting and other procedures that injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Federal law, which these bills mirror, prohibits anyone from knowingly circumcising, excising or infibulating the genitals of any child under 18 years of age. A violation of the federal law is a 5 year felony.

“It is widely accepted in the medical community that there are no health benefits of the procedure,” Schuitmaker said. “In fact, modern medicine has shown quite the opposite — it often results in significant lifelong harm. It is clear, to me at least, that FGM is used as a mechanism of control over young women.”

The bills stem from a recent case in which Michigan-based doctors were arrested and charged for allegedly conspiring to perform FGM on minors, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“I was shocked to hear that something so horrific is taking place right here in our state,” Schuitmaker said. “I am proud of my colleagues for getting these bills that protect our girls one step closer to the governor’s desk.”

SBs 337-338 and 368-369 passed unanimously and now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.