Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed several bills into law Tuesday, increasing the penalties for female genital mutilation.
Of the 13 bills he signed into law, one of the bills he signed would classify female genital mutilation (FGM) in Michigan as a felony that carries a penalty of up to 15 years behind bars, the Detroit Free Press reported.
“Those who commit these horrendous crimes should be held accountable for their actions, and these bills stiffen the penalties for offenders while providing additional support to victims,” Snyder said. “This legislation is an important step toward eliminating this despicable practice in Michigan while empowering victims to find healing and justice.”
The penalty under the new law is much stricter than the federal law banning the practice, which only carries a five-year prison sentence.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the practice of FGM is seen by some Muslim sects in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East as a religious ritual and involves cutting or removing parts of female genitalia. Often, the rationale among these sects is to make women “discouraged” from having sex outside of marriage.
Data from UNICEF shows 98 percent of girls in Somalia and 87 percent of Egyptian girls have undergone the procedure.
The legislation stems from a case in which federal prosecutors charged two Detroit doctors and a physician’s wife in April for allegedly performing genital cutting procedures on girls as young as seven years old.
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was arrested April 13 for allegedly carrying out FGM procedures on multiple girls in her suburban Detroit office in Livonia, Michigan.
A second doctor, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, and his wife Farida Attar were also arrested the following week for allegedly acting as co-conspirators in Dr. Nagarwala’s scheme.
The other bills signed into law permanently revoke the medical licenses of any medical practitioner who is convicted of carrying out such a practice and increase the statute of limitations to 10 years, so victims have more time to seek damages in civil lawsuits.
ABC News reports that Michigan is the 26th state to have laws on the books banning the practice. The legislation will go into effect starting in October.
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