Female genital mutilation isn’t illegal in North Carolina, but a group of senators are introducing a bill to change that for girls younger than 18.
State Sen. Joyce Krawiec, R-Forsyth, announced Jan. 30 she’s sponsoring a bill to ban the FGM on minors. North Carolina is one of 23 states that hasn’t yet made the practice illegal.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest backs the measure, which has yet to be filed. (UPDATE: Senate Bill 9 was filed Thursday, Jan. 31.)
The federal government in 1996 passed a law banning FGM in all states, but a federal court in Michigan repealed that law last year. Congress “overstepped its bounds” due to the fact that FGM is a local criminal activity, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman wrote in his decision.
Friedman made the right call, but North Carolina should ban FGM for minors who have no say, Forest said during a news conference Wednesday.
“This is a cultural practice, not a religious practice,” he said.
Unlike male circumcision, FGM involves permanent and life-altering injury to a woman’s genital organs. Procedures often aren’t performed by doctors and serve up a host of health risks and problems. The practice is especially popular in Indonesia, Egypt, and Ethiopia, but is also on the rise in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control estimate more than 500,000 girls in the U.S. are at risk of, or have suffered, FGM.
No one knows the exact number of affected women in North Carolina, Krawiec said. But the CDC estimates more than 118,000 of those at risk of the procedure live in states that haven’t banned the procedure.
Krawiec’s bill would label FGM as a class C felony, a minimum penalty of 44 months in prison, she said. The bill includes a “no defense clause,” which eliminates the ability to claim FGM as a cultural or religious practice.
“This really is a bipartisan bill. I haven’t heard any opposition to this anywhere across the board, not just within the Senate or the House, but anywhere in North Carolina,” Forest said. “A number of states have stepped up … and that’s what we’re trying to do in North Carolina. It’s the right thing to do to protect girls from this really brutal practice.”
Krawiec said she would be happy to ban the practice for all women — not just minors — but noted some of her colleagues felt, “If you’re an adult, you have the right to make that decision for yourself.”