ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - A bill that adds to the criminalization of female genital mutilation in Minnesota passed the House Civil Law and Data Practices Committee on a unanimous vote Wednesday.
Female genital mutilation is already illegal according to Minnesota law, but currently there are no repercussions for parents who subject their girls to the procedure.
H.F. 2621, authored by Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), makes it a felony for a parent, guardian or person legally responsible for a child to knowingly allowing a child to undergo the procedure. The bill also makes it justifiable to take the child into protective custody. An additional provision of the bill also requires the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health to educate communities where female genital mutilation is practiced about the potential loss of custody.
“This is a woman's rights issue, a human health issue,” Rep. Franson said. "Never in my wildest dreams did I think parents would be willing to break the law.”
Female genital mutilation is in the spotlight in Minnesota after two Detroit-area doctors were charged in federal court in connection with procedures performed on a pair of seven-year-old girls from Minnesota.
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala is charged with six crimes, including conspiracy to bring the girls across state lines. It carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
A second Detroit-area doctor, Fakhruddin Attar, and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, were both arrested and have been charged with conspiring to perform female genital mutilations on minor girls out of Dr. Attar's medical clinic in Livonia, Michigan. Authorities believe the husband and wife arranged and assisted in the procedures performed by Dr. Nagarwala.
Wednesday’s hearing in the Minnesota House included some powerful testimony from Fashion Khalif, a victim of genital mutilation as a child.
"As a little girl I remember it happened to me,” she said.
The bill faced some questions from Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-Minneapolis), who believes prosecutors should have looked to existing laws to charge the parents. Omar also voiced her concern that Franson’s bill was introduced to gain media exposure.
Rep. Ilhan Omar on genital mutilation bill: "What I don't want us to do is to create laws because we want to get in the media."
"What I would like to have been done is to have (the parents) charged with laws that already exist,” Rep. Omar said. "What I don't want us to do is to create laws because we want to get in the media."
Rep. Franson countered, "This has nothing to do with the cameras in the room, this is about saving children’s' lives."
After it passage in the Civil Law Committee, the bill now heads to the Public Safety Committee. The bill could be on the floor of the Minnesota House for a vote as soon as next week.
May 3, 2017 - Female genital mutilation bill passes Minnesota House committee
April 21, 2017 - 2nd doctor arrested in Minnesota girls' genital mutilation case
April 22, 2017 - Grand jury indicts 3 in Metro Detroit for female genital mutilation
April 27, 2017 - Not-guilty plea for doctor in Detroit genital mutilation case