The Michigan Senate approved legislation on
Wednesday making genital mutilation of girls a state felony
punishable by up to 15 years in prison, both for doctors who
perform the procedure and parents who transport a child to
undergo the surgery.
The legislation, which now goes to the state House of
Representatives, was spurred by the case of an emergency room
physician charged last month under federal law with performing
genital mutilation on two 7-year-old girls at a suburban Detroit
Another doctor and his wife who ran the clinic also have
been charged in that case, believed to mark the first U.S.
criminal prosecution of its kind. The three defendants could
face prison terms of up to five years if convicted.
Genital mutilation of girls, typically involving removal of
all or part of the clitoris, is banned by several international
treaties but remains a common cultural or religious practice in
some African countries, including Somalia, Sudan and Egypt.
State Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Rick Jones, a
sponsor of the legislation, cited recent expert testimony before
his panel describing Michigan as a "hotspot" for genital
mutilation due to its large community of immigrants from
countries where such surgery is still routinely performed.
"It's been hidden. But now that we're aware, we want to make
a very strong statement to the world - never again in Michigan,"
Aside from carrying tougher penalties than federal statute,
Michigan's legislation would allow arrests and prosecution by
local law enforcement.
It also would close a federal loophole by outlawing
transportation of girls under age 18 within state boundaries for
purposes of undergoing genital surgery, Jones said. Parents or
guardians who bring children to Michigan from abroad or are
found to have taken them overseas for such procedures could
likewise be charged.
The federal law, enacted in 1996, targets practitioners of
female genital mutilation as well as individuals who carry a
child across state lines to undergo the procedure.
The package of four Republican-sponsored Michigan bills
cleared the state Senate unanimously, and Jones said he expects
swift House passage and enactment by the governor in a matter of
Jones said female genital mutilation bans have been passed or
were under consideration in several other states, including
Minnesota and Texas, but he believed Michigan's would be the
The World Health Organization has estimated that more than
200 million girls and women alive today have undergone genital
mutilation, which can cause lasting health problems.