House lawmakers in Lansing are currently working to halt female genital mutilation in Michigan by implementing a package of legislation that extends beyond solely criminalizing the practice.
This new package would provide legal recourse for victims, lengthen the statute of limitations for survivors and revoke the health care licenses of those convicted — changes prompted by the news that two doctors were recently prosecuted for the alleged genital mutilations of two young girls in a metro Detroit clinic.
Northville Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, Farmington Hills Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida Attar, were charged by federal authorities in April for committing female genital mutilation and transporting minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
According to the Detroit News, State Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R–Manton) explained approximately 70 lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, have said they would co-sponsor this new legislation, which is more complex than the already Senate-approved plan which criminalizes the practice in the state of Michigan.
State Rep. Stephanie Chang (D–Detroit), fellow sponsor of the legislation, said the package would not only criminalize female genital mutilation, but provide further opportunities for education as well as police-training programs. She commented on the vulgar nature of such a crime happening locally, in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.
“It’s 2017,” Chang said. “The United Nations has been working on this issue and it’s happening in our own state … which is honestly horrifying.”
As lawmakers work to stop the practice, University of Michigan students are also working to become more informed on the global issue of female genital mutilation.
This past fall, the University’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom hosted a screening of the film "Honor Diaries” in order to educate the University community about female genital mutilation, as well as honor-based violence — violent acts used to maintain social order by restoring “honor” to the individual.
LSA sophomore Roxanne Ruiz said the film screening opened her eyes to female genital mutilation.
“The issue became very real for me,” she said in an earlier interview with the Daily. “I had to step out because it was overwhelming. It’s very scary that FGM and honor killings are happening here, and I think that’s what scares people, too, and that’s why they don’t want to talk about it.”
In 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated approximately 513,000 women and girls in the United States were at risk of undergoing this practice — a number that has more than doubled since the last estimate in the 1990s.
LSA junior Courtney Caulkins, also a member of the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program, said she believes legislation that calls for education and training will be far more beneficial than criminalizing female genital mutilation alone.
“I'm glad to see that the legislation is calling for education and training as a response to the issue rather than simply criminalizing the act,” she said. “I think that, those kinds of education programs, if done well, could give different communities within our state opportunities to learn from each other and work together towards not only limiting female genital mutilation but also encouraging understanding and respect among different cultures. I don't think focusing only on criminalization could have the same result.”