Politics

ACLU Opposes Maine Bill Criminalizing Female Genital Mutilation

The American Civil Liberties Union launched a vocal opposition this week against a Maine bill criminalizing female genital mutilation (FGM), Mainely Media reports.

Republican Rep. Heather Sirocki is sponsoring the bill, saying that it would classify performing FGM as a Class B crime in the state, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. The bill would also punish the parent or guardian of the victim.

However, the Maine ACLU staunchly opposes the protection. ACLU spokesman Oamshri Amarasingham said that the risk of mutilation isn’t worth expanding Maine’s criminal code. The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault also supported the ACLU, arguing that FGM is not happening in Maine. (RELATED: Husband And Wife Arrested For Performing Female Genital Mutilation At Detroit-Area Clinic)

Sirocki, however, pointed to a 2012 report from the Center for Disease Control, which found 500,000 victims of FGM in the US. Furthermore, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement found that 400 individuals have been arrested and 785 deported for FGM violations nationwide since 2003.

Maine, Sirocki said, is one of the eight highest-risk areas in the US for FGM. The practice has proven to be so rampant in the state that it has received special federal funding to combat it.

Sirocki’s bill would also criminalize “vacation cutting,” the practice of flying briefly overseas to subject minors to FGM in nations that haven’t banned the practice. (RELATED: Lawyer: Why The Religious Freedom Clause Doesn’t Protect Female Genital Mutilation)

While FGM has been a crime federally since 1996, Maine is one of the highest-risk areas in the country for the practice, and Sirocki said that law enforcement needs to be able to try offenders on the state level.

“Federal prosecutors take a very small amount of cases,” Sirocki said. “The state of Maine deals with thousands of cases. If a situation would occur and this is the issue, if the federal government doesn’t have enough prosecutors, it doesn’t get prosecuted.”

The bill, LD745, only criminalizes the practice on those under 18. It does not apply to adults who choose to undergo mutilation, “though it probably should,” Sirocki said. If the bill passes, Maine would be the 25th state to protect its residents against FGM.

Sirocki said that the Committee of Criminal Justice and Public Safety was divided in its support of the bill, but eventually recommended the bill favorably with a 7-5 vote. The Maine House of Representatives will first review the bill, then it will go to the members of the state senate.

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