Monday, October 02, 2017

Mutilation in Maine

The euphemism is “female circumcision,” but federal law banning it in the USA labels it “Female Genital Mutilation” or FGM, and that would seem to be the more accurate term. That law passed in 1997 but if it hadn’t, I wonder if it would pass in today’s political climate.

The issue is getting controversial and opinion is divided along left/right political lines. Generally, Republicans want to ban it and Democrats resist. There’s also disagreement about whether FGM is a Muslim religious practice or strictly an African cultural ritual. Some say it’s both.

Prevalence of FGM

A report in The Middle East Quarterly claims FGM is practiced in many Muslim countries beyond Africa, especially in Kurdistan, but there’s little research beyond that because such discussion is discouraged in the Muslim world. An article on claims FGM is discussed in a “hadith,” a singular or plural noun for accounts of what Muhammed said, which records a discussion between Muhammed and a woman who performed FGM. Muhammed said, “Yes, it is allowed … if you cut, do not overdo it, because it brings more radiance to the face, and it is more pleasant for the husband.” On the strength of that hadith, today’s Muslims do not prohibit FGM.

So how would one “overdo it”? Carmen Fishwick, writing in the UK Guardian, describes FGM thusly:

“Female genital mutilation involves the removal of the clitoris, inner-and-outer lips of the vagina, and the sewing or stapling together of the two sides of the vulva leaving only a small hole to pass urine and menstruate –- depending on the type. Typically FGM is performed with a razor blade on girls between the ages of four and 12, traditionally without anaesthetic.”

One FGM procedure only removes the clitoris.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala

No one had been prosecuted in the United States under the federal law until April of this year when two Michigan doctors, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala and Dr. Fakhruddin Attar were arrested for mutilating the genitals of two young Muslim girls from Minnesota. A USA Today article claims there were many more victims and that Dr. Nagarwala regularly performed the practice but tried to cover up her activity. Nagarwala was released under $4.5 million bond two weeks ago while awaiting trial. Her attorney said she would not flee because the wants a trial: “It's a fight about a sacred religious practice,” she added. Nagarwala, a Muslim, clearly believes FGM is a religious practice. Attorney Alan Dershowitz agrees and is consulting with Nagarwala’s defense team.

Dr. Fakhruddin Attar

A bill to criminalize FGM in Maine failed by one vote last summer. Maine State Representative Heather Sirocki of Scarborough had introduced the bill and she told me she expects it to be reintroduced by Governor LePage in January. Opponents of Sirocki’s bill claim FGM doesn’t happen in Maine and her bill is a solution in search of a problem. Sirocki claims Maine girls are indeed being victimized. As evidence, she cites a survey of federal Medicaid data where there are codes for each procedure performed including female genital mutilation. For 2016 alone, Maine documented eight incidents of treatment for FGM — presumably medical intervention for complications resulting from FGM rather than for the procedure itself.

Maine Representative Heather Sirocki

When I attended a forum at St Joseph’s Church in Bridgton, Maine last year, a woman claiming to work in the Portland school system said Somali girls told her they’d been taken to Boston for the procedure. If anyone who attended can tell me that woman’s name, I’d appreciate it. Sirocki also told me that Maine’s Department of Human Services (DHS) instructs mandated reporters to notify DHS about suspected incidents of FGM, but that didn’t happen for the eight incidents reported above.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lobbied against Sirocki’s bill in Maine and against a similar bill in Minnesota where it was also defeated. However, twenty-four other states have outlawed the procedure. It’s perplexing that neither the Democrat Party nor women’s groups in the US are not leading the charge against FGM. The issue would seem to be tailor-made for them. Neither do they complain about widespread abuse of women within Islam from beatings to honor killings. The same kind of myopia is evident in the European left as well.

Augustin Bahati

Some claim it’s multiculturalism — the idea that all cultures are equal, that no one culture is superior or inferior to any other culture — even one that oppresses women. In my conversation with Maine Representative Heather Sirocki, she cited the case of a Manchester, New Hampshire man, Augustin Bahati, 33, who was arrested last August for what the Manchester Union Leader described as “striking, pushing, grabbing, kicking and pulling out the hair of a woman who was 27 weeks pregnant…” The charges were dropped by Manchester domestic violence prosecutor Andrea Muller because “he lacked the cultural competency to participate in the American justice system.” Bahati is an immigrant from the Congo. It’s okay to beat up women in the Congo, so let him do it here too?

NH Prosecutor Andrea Muller

We’ll see what happens when Maine Governor LePage reintroduces the FGM bill in January.


Anonymous said...

Excellent article. Let's hope the Maine legislature finally does the right thing next session.

I'd like any female who reads this article to forward it to their OB/GYN to encourage them to contact Rep. Sirocki to provide the "proof" that the ACLU claims does not exist.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great article. The word really needs to get out. Praying Governor LePage will do something in January, and that compassion will prevail amongst all Legislators finishing the 128th session. I pray that no other child will ever undergo FGM. Maine must step up and stop it!

Uber_Fritz said...

Great informational piece, Tom!

There is something seriously wrong with any legislative body that fails to ban and criminalize such barbaric practices. It serves no medical value, cause permanent disfigurement, and has a lasting psychological impact!

For what? So that we recognize cultural differences? Although this degree of pure ignorance does not surprise me.

Anonymous said...

Female and male circumcision should both be banned on minors. If you are 18+ and decide to do it of your own free will, fine.

- medically unnecessary
- permanent / non-reversible
- will affect quality of life
- much more serious than tatoos or piercings
- not possible for minors to consent
- parents should not be making this decision for their children

Anonymous said...

This gross practice should certainly be stopped (along with male circumcision?)

Not sure about the line about Democrats mostly being in favor of the practice

Anonymous said...

Of course democrats aren't mostly in favor of it, but that fact doesn't register in Tom's black and white analysis. Everything he writes is based on information from tabloids and memes. What a horror show of a history teacher he must have been and thank god he is out of the public school system (yet still feeding from the trough of government benefits that he so disdains).

Anonymous said...

Two articles in a row that I agree with you for the most part. The one part I disagree with is that liberals tend to support this. I'm sure that some do but every time I read about this on the liberal websites I read, the vast majority are against it.

Many people automatically think the ACLU is liberal and against religion but in fact they have taken on as many cases supporting churches as fighting against them. Their entire purpose is to protect the constitution as it is written and interpreted by the supreme court. It just happens that in America it is conservatives who are most likely to try to trample on the constitution.

On a somewhat related point. I wonder what you'd feel about passing a law against symbolic cannibalism? I'm really against any religion that promotes cannibalism in their rituals.


Brian said...

What was not made clear in Tom's column was the fact that the bill was unnecessary because the practice is already specifically barred under federal law and also falls under Maine’s “aggravated assault” law. So what was the point of this bill?

THAT was what was behind any votes to not pass the bill. Why try and spin this in some lame attempt to make it look like democrats are in favor of protecting this practice?

Anonymous said...

"Everything he writes is based on information from tabloids and memes."

And of course trashy sites like Breitbart, who are caught WAY more often in falsehoods and "fake news" than any "mainstream" media.

Anonymous said...

Tom, you certainly have some brain dead critics.

Brian said...

How so Charles?

If you don't back it up it's just a childish insult.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I see the Conway Daily Sun published this column but left out the Guardian's description of exactly what FGM is.

Stopp Planned Parenthood of Connecticut said...

October is respect life month. Here is a prayer composed by Magnificat's poet Rita Simmonds to guide us in our observance that may also apply to topic:
Holy Angels
You love to be called upon to guide God's creation to goodness.
Inspire those entrusted to your care
to reverence God's Image in themselves
and others,
to bow down and serve God's Only Begotten
Son in the least and most vulnerable
and in so doing, to see, as you do the greatness
and wonder of God's humanity. Amen.

In all we think, say, and do, let us offer constant thanks
to our merciful Father for the awesome gift of life.

This is an intense, brutal article. What kind of a mother would allow this to happen to her daughter let alone sit beside her? Only God is the solution and can restore us to sanity.
Jesus was circumcised only to appease the people of his humanity. The Blessed Mother, no.
In Jesus and Mary,
Mary Anne

Anonymous said...

If your all powerful god wanted to stop something....

Anonymous said...

Charles, the only example of brain dead that I could find here is your comment.

Brian said...

What's up with your dopey picture attacking the ACLU by calling them the Islamic Civil Liberties Union?

You only like our rights protected when you agree with them, obviously. You probably had no complaints when the ACLU defended the right for Texans to have the Confederate flag on their plates. Or when they protected Rush Limbaugh's medical records from being accessed. Or when they fought for Chic-Filet's rights to not be banned in Chicago. Or when they defend anti-gay picketing. Or when they teamed with the Tea Party against the NSA program.

But when you don't like the rights they are fighting to protect, they become un-American?

There are lots of causes the ACLU takes up that I disagree with, but at the same time I like the fact they are trying to protect EVERYBODIES rights.