FGM in Minnesota

The Minnesota Star Tribute has a bizarre story entitled Minnesota bill against female genital mutilation raises opposition.

It begins:

Opposition from some members of Minnesota’s immigrant and refugee communities is slowing the momentum of a bill that would impose stiff penalties for parents involved in cases of female genital mutilation.

Let’s call it like it is: there are people who are opposed to a law designed to reduce child abuse, and in particular, the abuse of girls.

The Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, a nonprofit called Isuroon and other groups argue that the legislation carries overly harsh punishment and unintended consequences, including the possibility that newcomers from countries where genital cutting is widespread would not seek medical care and other services for their children. They call for a less punitive approach focused on educating parents.

How about just educating parents that this sort of child abuse is illegal and anyone participating will get in a lot of trouble.

Now, the author of the Senate version is voicing second thoughts about approving the legislation yet this session, though Senate GOP leadership have not committed to a course of action. “We all agree this practice is absolutely horrible, and something needs to be done,” said the author, Sen. Karin Housley. “How can we empower communities to address this practice from within rather than having Big Brother come down and say, ‘This is wrong?’ ”

Who says nonsense like this? Empower communities to address this practice from within? How exactly are these communities “unempowered?” What exactly is preventing the community from having the discussion? Do they get struck by lighting when they bring up certain topics and they need a Faraday Cage to avoid getting fried? Does thinking certain thoughts attract a herd of rabid wolverines?

Imagine if the same statement was brought up about other forms of child abuse: “How can we empower child molesters to address this practice from within rather than having Big Brother come down and say, ‘This is wrong?’ ” Sounds insane, doesn’t it?

Obviously, the issue is not figuring out how to empower the community to discuss the issue. The issue is that people who are engaging in the practice don’t see a problem with it. Some may, in fact, advocate for it publicly.

Here’s what the bill does:

Franson’s bill makes it a felony for parents to subject their daughters to the procedure and calls for loss of custody and prison terms from five to 20 years, depending on the extent of the injuries. It also increases penalties for those who perform the procedure, which has been illegal since pioneering Minnesota legislation in the 1990s.

And here’s some discussion from within the community, demonstrating that the Senator calling for empowerment is way too late:

Lul Hersi, a St. Cloud mother of four and a supporter of the bill, says the United States should warn refugee parents against rushing to have their daughters cut before traveling to the United States — and disqualify them from resettlement if they do: “The parents know the risks they’re putting their kids in.”

Fartun Weli of Isuroon, which won a $180,000 federal grant this winter to educate health care providers about the procedure, stresses that she does not condone the practice.

But she and other critics balk at separating girls from their families, which they argue victimizes them a second time. They say they worry about families arriving from places where the practice is deeply rooted. An amendment to Franson’s bill states the penalties apply only if the ritual is practiced in the United States. But Haji Yusuf, a Somali community leader in St. Cloud, questions whether authorities can always readily determine that.

For parents who came to the United States with girls who’d already undergone the procedure, the bill, which mandates reporting to authorities by health care providers and others, could discourage doctor visits.

More problems noticed by the community:

“How can you protect children when you take them away from their families and put them in foster care?” she said.

Because we all know that little girls are better off with parents who will cut them. And we know there is no way that parents who cut their daughter will also marry her off while she is still a child. And even less chance they will perform an honor killing if the girl objects to being married off to one of the community’s elders.

More objections being raised include:

Hodan Hassan, a mental health clinician, also argues for a less punitive approach.

“When I read the bill, my heart sank,” Hassan said. “It criminalizes parents who don’t understand the legality of their actions and don’t have the ability to advocate for themselves.”

I can understand having trouble with some arcane accounting regulations, or difficulty understanding precisely how much weight you are allowed to tow behind a pickup truck, but it shouldn’t be too hard to remember that you can’t perform FGM on your daughter. And what is this nonsense about not being able to advocate for themselves? The practice has been illegal in the state for a couple of decades.   The best way a parent can advocate for him or herself is to avoid engaging in this practice.

And apparently there are more ways the community is being victimized:

Weli says she worries the House discussion framed the issue as a Somali community problem when almost a dozen immigrant communities in Minnesota hail from countries that practice genital cutting. At least one of the Minnesota girls whose parents took them to a Michigan doctor now charged with performing the procedure — the case that inspired the House bill — was not Somali, according to child protection documents.

If the majority of the cases of FGM in Minnesota are in the Somali (I would have thought it was the “Somali-American” community and not the “Somali” community), doesn’t it make sense to focus on that community?  Right at the moment there is also an outbreak of measles in Minnesota, and it too is <a href = ” https://www.statnews.com/2017/05/08/measles-vaccines-somali/”>heavily concentrated in the Somali-American community</a>due to that community’s fear of being vaccinated.  Due to the concentration of the problem, there’s a lot more bang for the buck in trying to get Somali-American kids vaccinated then there is in  pretending everyone in all the places to visit in Minnesota has an equal likelihood of contracting diseases that could mostly be avoided through innoculation.

The last word on the issue, at least as far as the article is concerned, goes to the author of the bill:

Franson says the bill’s intent is clear: protecting girls. So is the language in the bill that limits penalties to those who live in the United States when the practice takes place. She says loss of custody must be a consequence of a procedure that causes girls lifelong harm.

“America is the land of the brave and the home of the free,” she said. “Little girls who moved here from other countries have the right to be free from the oppression of female genital mutilation.”

That doesn’t make any sense at all. I can understand protecting little girls from FGM and other barbaric practices, I am all in favor of it. But if the last paragraph isn’t a giant non-sequitur, I don’t know what is.  After all, one would think little girls should have the right to be free of FGM regardless of what country they’re in.


Update:  Minor edits in one sentence for clarity.