Bill to ban female genital mutilation clears Senate

March 15, 2019
Sen. Mary Souza

BOISE — A bill to ban female genital mutilation of children in Idaho is one step closer to becoming law after receiving unanimous support Thursday in the Senate.

“This is one of the most delicate and personal bills we will hear, and it is also heartbreaking,” said co-sponsor Sen. Mary Souza, R-Coeur d’Alene.

The proposed legislation, HB 114, would prohibit female genital mutilation, making it a felony punishable by up to life in prison. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

Female genital mutilation was criminalized under federal law in 1996. That law, however, didn’t include ways for states to enforce it. In November, a federal judge in Michigan overturned the ruling, stating the issue should be left up to the states, according to Souza. In all, 28 states have outlawed female genital mutilation.

Female genital mutilation, as defined by the World Health Organization, comprises of “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” It is a practice commonly seen in African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries.

Because most victims are young and may not report genital mutilation to law enforcement until much later in life, the bill also changes the statute of limitations to three years after it’s reported, unlike the usual five-year statute of limitations after the commission of a felony. Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, previously said sometimes genital mutilation can occur in children as young as 3 years old.