Lawmakers hear from victims of female genital mutilation
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Several women who have lived through the painful procedure of genital mutilation urged lawmakers Monday to make the practice illegal in Maine.
Lawmakers listened to comments Monday about legislation that would make female genital mutilation a felony crime. It would be punishable by up to 30 years in prison under two proposed bills.
The practice already is outlawed under federal law, and Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills contends that state law already allows her to prosecute the crime if it happened in Maine.
Roughly two dozen states have passed laws criminalizing the practice, which is common in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Activist F.A. Cole said she survived female genital mutilation in her home country of Sierra Leone and supports Republican state Rep. Heather Sirocki’s bill that aims to hold everyone involved in a female circumcision accountable. Republican Gov. Paul LePage backs Sirocki’s proposal.
“Clear laws can serve as a strong deterrent,” Sirocki said.
Two Somali victims of female genital mutilation who now live in Maine support Democratic Rep. Barbara Cardone’s bill, which also would fund immigration outreach efforts. The victims said Sirocki refused to meet with them and other immigrant women in Maine and urged lawmakers to seek more input from the state’s refugee communities.
“It is no time worse to be a black Muslim refugee today,” said Fowsia Musse of MAINE Community Integration, a nonprofit that helps immigrants integrate into U.S. society. She said there’s no evidence that female genital mutilation is happening in Maine, and that lawmakers should not stigmatize refugees who received the procedure in their home countries.
“We are people who have been suspected all our lives,” said Fatuma Hussein, who founded the Maine Immigrant Resource Center. “It is not right for us to keep running in the state of Maine.”