Letter to Editor: Criminalizing mutilation

To the Editor:

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is the practice of partially or totally removing the external genitalia of girls and young women for non-medical reasons. Why is FGM ever done?

In some countries, particularly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, FGM is a cultural tradition. Common reasons for FGM cited by women in surveys done by UNICEF in 2013 include social acceptance, religion, hygiene, preservation of virginity, marriageability and enhancement of male sexual pleasure.

Regardless of the reason, FGM is painful, dangerous and can lead to many health complications, including urinary infections, gangrene, painful periods and painful intercourse.

What does this have to do with Maine?

In April 2018, An Act to Prohibit the Practice of Female Genital Mutilation of a Minor (LD 1904) was brought to a vote in the Maine House of Representatives. Shockingly, after 3-5 roll call votes, LD 1904 failed to pass. In fact, on April 18, 2018 the act “died between the houses.”

Rep Jared Golden (D-Lewiston) who is running against Congressman Bruce Poliquin to represent District 2 in Washington D.C., voted against criminalizing FGM. Remember this when Nov. 6 rolls around. Note that the Maine Senate did pass this important legislation that would have protected young girls from experiencing this horrific practice. Thank you, Senators. (Senators Bellows, Carson, Dion, Millett and Maramant voted against this bill.)

It is important to note that the Maine Prosecutors Association testified in 2017 that “the prosecutors do not feel confident that they can charge someone with committing female genital mutilation without the passage of this bill.”

I immediately emailed several legislators, including my own representative, Michelle Dunphy.

Rep. Dunphy responded to my email asking why she did not support this bill by writing, “I voted ought not to pass on FGM legislation because it is already against the law by way of federal legislation and it seemed unnecessary to duplicate that in Maine.”

Apparently, my representative did not do her homework. Although in 1996 the federal government passed the Female Genital Mutilation Act, which stated that performing FGM on anyone under age 18 was a felony in the United States, the first prosecution for FGM occurred in 2006 in Georgia. Because Georgia did not have a specific law against FGM at that time, the person (the victim’s father) was found guilty of aggravated battery and cruelty to children.

In 2010, Georgia did pass a law making FGM a crime in that state.

In April 2017, a doctor in Detroit, Michigan, was changed with allegedly performing FGM on two girls who had traveled from Minnesota with their mothers. This was the first federal prosecution for FGM in U.S. history. It is still pending.

As of July, 27 states have made specific laws that prohibit FGM in their states. Many were hoping and praying that Maine with be the 27th state but New Hampshire beat us to it, passing their law criminalizing FGM on July 3 of this year.

Maine should have a law that criminalizes this cruel practice perpetrated on our young girls.

Ask your representative how they voted on LD 1904. I’ll make it easy for you: if you have a Democratic representative, they voted against criminalizing FGM (except Rep. Cathy Nadeau of Winslow). If you have Republican representative, they voted for criminalizing FGM.

Wanda Lincoln

Old Town

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