Last week, while Michigan governor Rick Snyder was signing new legislation to make female genital mutilation (FGM),the practice that cuts or removes the outside of the female genitalia, a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, the Maine legislature was turning a blind eye to the grim reality of FGM by rejecting a bill that would criminalize FGM.
The truth of the matter is, House lawmakers had to opportunity to protect little girls and women from the horrors of FGM and instead the Pine Tree State chose to look the other way because some representatives did not believe FGM was happening in their state.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half a million girls and women in America have already been subjected to such mutilation—or are at risk of having it inflicted upon them. Reportedly, some of them live in the state of Maine. Regardless of these startling statistics, the legislators in Maine voted down L-D 45 and sent a resounding message to mutilators that it is a safe harbor for them to conduct the procedure.
Aside from sending a resounding message to mutilators that it is a safe harbor for them to conduct the procedure, the Maine House told women everywhere, their rights mean nothing. The saddest part of this message was the fact the American Civil Liberties Union chose to stay silent on the issue, citing “the risk of FGM isn’t worth expanding Maine’s criminal code.”
The entire mission of the ACLU, is to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States. In this moment when it came to protecting and defending women’s rights, not only did they fail, the made the choice to turn their back on little girls.
In 2017, many would believe the barbaric practices of FGM would be not only a thing of the past, but would be illegal in all 50 states. However, this is not the case, currently, only 24 states have laws making FGM illegal. While other states are working to eradicate FGM, Maine is choosing to be part of the problem instead of the solution.
At the end of the day, while L-D 45 failed in the Maine House it now heads to the Maine Senate for consideration. Here’s hoping the Senate will do the right thing and protect women and little girls, instead of following suit with their House counterparts.