Female genital mutilation follows immigrant women and girls to America

Women and girls who immigrate from countries where female genital mutilation is common are not immune to the practice even after they arrive in the U.S., according to the United Nations. (Reuters)

By Abigail Hauslohner May 25 

Minnesota state Rep. Mary Franson received a note from a friend last year urging her to draft stricter legislation against female genital mutilation. The state already had banned the practice in 1994, so the Republican worried that a new law would seem “Islamophobic,” given its target audience.

One case changed her mind.

Federal prosecutors last month charged three Michigan doctors with putting two Minnesota girls under the knife. The parents of one girl — ostensibly complicit in the procedure — lost custody “for a whopping 72 hours,” Franson told lawmakers on the floor of the Minnesota statehouse last week.

Now she wants Minnesota to pass a bill that would send perpetrators to prison for up to 20 years, targeting parents as well as doctors.

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

Female genital mutilation has been a federal crime in the United States for more than two decades, carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. But the three doctors are the first to be charged under the law. The case has set off a flurry of new bills across the country, with a growing number of states moving to extend penalties to the parents and hit them with lengthy prison terms.

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