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Republicans push for harsher punishments for FGM, but critics question their motivation

By WITW Staff on May 26, 2017

Republicans across the United States are pushing for stricter punishments in cases of female genital mutilation (FGM), but some opposing lawmakers are expressing concerns that targeting immigrant families with “Draconian” punishments might make the problem even worse.

Last month in Michigan, federal prosecutors charged three doctors with having subjected two Minnesota girls to FGM. Despite concerns that she might come across as “Islamophobic,” Minnesota state Representative Mary Franson said that the incident inspired her to pursue a bill that would send practitioners of FGM to prison for up to 20 years. The bill would not only target the doctors who perform the procedure, but also parents who ask doctors to perform it.

“We’re saying that If you harm your child in this way, you’re going to be held responsible,” Franson said.

Republican-authored FGM bills have also popped up in Michigan, Texas, and Maine. At a recent hearing in Michigan, state Senator Rick Jones told colleagues that he wanted “to send the message that Michigan is not the place to bring your daughter for this evil, horrific, demonic practice.”

While FGM has no root in religious practice — Muslims, Christians, Animists, and Jews are all known to perform FGM in various traditions — far-right blogs and news websites have been determined to portray FGM as a practice intrinsic to Islam.

FGM “would not exist in the U.S. without mass immigration bringing its practitioners into U.S. communities,” wrote Breitbart reporter Katie McHugh in March — a sentiment echoed by Stephen Miller, a top aide to President Trump. While the estimated number of girls at risk of FGM in the U.S. has nearly tripled due to immigration from at-risk countries such as Egypt, Ethiopia, and Somalia, leading Muslim authorities — such as the Grand Mufti of Egypt and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani — have condemned the practice.

As debate over Franson’s proposal went on in Minnesota last week, dissenting lawmakers noted that the law could lead to increased deportations and the state taking custody of children whose parents were suspected of involvement in FGM.

“When you start removing children from their families, increasing penalties for families, it’s likely that it may deter them from reporting the violence,” said Minnesota state Representative Susan Allen. “They may not cooperate with police.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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