The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill that includes increased penalties for individuals found guilty of participating in female genital mutilation.
The package of bills ups the punishment dictated by federal law. With bipartisan support behind the law, legislators made performing or coordinating female genital mutilation a state felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
According to MLive, the bill, if signed into law, would triple the five-year maximum sentence mandated by the federal government.
The federal penalty also stipulates convicted persons may have to pay a fine of $250,000.
Rep. Michele Horitenga (R-Manton) said the aim of the legislation is to send the message that “these horrific acts on young girls will not be tolerated in our state.”
MLive reports that similar bills were passed in the Michigan Senate in May.
The wave of legislation specifically targeting those who perform and abet female genital mutilation is largely a reaction to an ongoing criminal case which emerged in the Metro Detroit area.
Prosecutors are accusing Livonia, MI, doctor Jumana Nagarwala of ‘cutting’ the genitals of several young women and girls. New information released last week suggests that the prosecution estimates Nagarwala could have performed the procedure on over 100 children.
Nagarwala was allegedly aided by both her co-defendants, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida. The Attars purportedly allowed Nagarwala to use their Metro Detroit medical clinic to perform acts of female genital mutilation after-hours.
Both the Attars and Nagarwala are members of the Dawoodi Bohra sect of Shia Islam. Several of the girls who underwent the procedure were brought to Michigan by their mother from Wisconsin.
While Dawoodi Bohra leadership in the United States have issued condemnations against the doctors, the sect’s leadership in South Asia has a reputation for subtly and overtly encouraging female genital mutilation.
The case brought against Nagarwala and the Attars is the first of its kind in the United States.
Other bills approved Thursday were also geared towards punishing persons accused of participating in female genital mutilation. They include a lengthening of the statute of limitations under which a victim of female genital mutilation could file a lawsuit against the perpetrator.
Provided the victim was a minor at the time the procedure was performed, they would, under the new law, be allowed to sue up until their 28th birthday.
Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) said the bill was a necessity. She referred to the current statute of limitations on medical malpractice, which limits individuals to a two-year period for filing lawsuits.
Chang said that because female genital mutilation is such a scarring process, on a physical and emotional level, women who were victimized as minors should have an opportunity to seek legal action in the future because “the long term health and emotional impacts of genital mutilation are real.”
MLive’s summary of the legislation highlights another two provisions included in last Thursday’s package of bills.
The new laws also require that any physician found guilty of performing female genital mutilation be stripped of their medical license, and that the Department of Health and Human Services conduct an outreach campaign to inform the public of the risks associated with the procedure.