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Female genital mutilation is not against state law but that could change

Detroit doctors face first-ever federal case alleging female genital mutilation.

Two Michigan Senators plan to introduce bills to criminalize the practice of genital mutilation of minor girls under state law.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a crime under federal law.  The U.S. Justice Department this week brought the first-ever charges under the law against two Detroit-area doctors and a third person.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44,  Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, are charged with performing FGM on minor girls out of Fakrhuddin Attar’s medical office in Livonia, Michigan.

State Senator Margaret O'Brien says there needs to be a strong message about what she calls a barbaric practice: not in Michigan.

She says there's a good reason to have both a state and federal law banning it, since a person may be more easily charged or tried under one versus the other. 

"Also, under our bill proposal, it would be a 15 year felony rather than the 5 year felony that the federal government is charging," O'Brien said,  "This is a serious issue and we don't think the federal standard is high enough."

O'Brien notes there are cultural traditions of genital mutilation of girls among some people who practice Christianity or Islam, but she says it's important for people to know that it is not endorsed by any major religion.

O'Brien's bill defines the felony crime of female genital mutilation.  A companion bill sponsored by State Senator Rick Jones makes it punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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