Camden Herald Letters to the Editor Oct. 31

Oct 31, 2019

Supporting a Maine anti-female genital mutilation law

One year ago, a provocative full-page advertisement ran outlining the issue of female genital mutilation. State Rep. Pinny Beebe-Center (D-Rockland) was called to task for repeatedly refusing to support legislation protecting girls and criminalizing this harmful cultural practice.

Fingers were pointed at the editor for allowing the ad; there was public outcry and hysteria ensued. Maine House Democrats insisted existing penal code was sufficient despite Maine Prosecutor’s Association testimony: “The prosecutors do not feel confident that they can charge someone with committing Female Genital Mutilation without the passage of this bill.”

They insisted that it was already covered by federal law despite several Maine prosecutors explaining the unlikelihood of federal prosecution. A state law was and is still needed.

Fervent requests from Maine Republican legislators, including the ad’s sponsor, Paula Sutton from Warren, insisted state law was needed, but they were met with derision and vicious name-calling. I was disheartened, but not surprised that people avoided the sensitive issue of FGM and instead, were focused on the daring act of bringing the topic.

Since then, federal FGM law has been ruled unconstitutional. As a result, 35 states now have specific laws prohibiting the crime.

Over the summer Homeland Security War Crimes Unit – which has spent three decades investigating and apprehending human rights violators – launched Operation Limelight USA. The aim is to “inform travelers of the dangers of female genital mutilation and the consequences for those who commit this horrific abuse.”

Recently, activist and FGM survivor F.A. Cole alerted officials she was aware of plans to take a girl out of the

country for the purposes of FGM, known as “vacation cutting.” Fortunately, her alert helped ICE step in to stop the first effort; two months later, another effort was also stopped.

It looks like Sutton and the Republicans were right all along; we do need strong state laws protecting young girls. This should not be a partisan issue. The Maine Senate showed strong bi-partisan support in favor of the bill. Speaker of the House Sara Gideon, candidate for U.S. Senate and original sponsor of the anti-FGM bill, lead the hyper-partisan charge for House Democrats to kill the bill.

Teri Stred



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