3/23/18, Maine First Media Staff Report,
The Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee has agreed in principle on a compromise Female Genital Mutilation Ban bill; however, the path for the new bill remains somewhat unclear.
The majority of the committee voted in support of a bill that would:
- Make performing FGM on a minor a Class A crime;
- Make it a Class A crime for a parent or guardian to consent to FGM of a minor in their care;
- Make transporting a minor out of state for the purpose of FGM a Class A crime;
- Extend the statute of limitations until the victim’s 25th birthday;
- Disallow “desirable as a social norm” as a defense of FGM;
- Make violation of the law grounds for permanent license revocation;
- Refine language to exclude, “FGM performed by state-licensed physician, midwife or person in an approved physician or midwife training program for (a) purposes necessary to the health of the minor or (b) on a minor in labor or when has just given birth for medical purposes connected with that labor/birth;”
- Provide funding for community outreach educating about the dangers of FGM.
Cut from the bill was special permissions allowing access to records to prove the age of minors without a birth certificate. This piece was in Rep. Heather Sirocki’s (R-Scarborough) original proposal. It was intended to aid prosecutors in cases involving minors without birth certificates.
The agreed-upon compromise received eight of the committee’s 13 votes. The eight committee members voting this compromise “ought to pass” were:
- Rep. Karen Gerrish (R-Lebanon)
- Rep. Donald Marean (R-Hollis)
- Rep. Patrick Corey (R-Windham)
- Rep. Lloyd Herrick (R-Paris)
- Sen. Scott Cyrway (R-Kennebec)
- Sen. Kim Rossen (R-Hancock)
- Sen. William Diamond (D-Cumberland)
- Rep. Catherine Nadeau (D-Winslow)
Unlike the bipartisan support of the compromise bill, three Democrats and an independent held out to create two other options.
Rep. Sirocki points out it was the “consent” portion of the proposal that caused controversy on the committee.
“It became apparent early on that there were significant areas of disagreement amongst some of the committee members,” Rep. Sirocki said.
“While they did achieve progress on some provisions, there remained one last hurdle, and it was a big one, that of holding the responsible person accountable that has immediate custody of the child; this is the person that consents to the crime.”
Wanting to “do something,” Sen. Thomas Longstaff (D-Waterville) and Rep. Martin Grohman (I-Biddeford) voted the bill “ought to pass,” but with an amendment excluding the portion of the proposal making parent/guardian consent of FGM of a minor a Class A crime.
“To name a few other crimes under Maine law that involve a person that either passively or actively engages in the promotion of a crime: allowing underage drinking on their property, allowing the sale of illegal substances on their property (traphouse), and a person involved in promoting aggravated sexual trafficking,” Rep. Sirocki pointed out.
Two Democrats, Rep. Charlotte Warren (D-Hallowell) and Rep. Rachel Talbot-Ross (D-Portland) voted against banning the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Maine.
Republican Rep. Karen Gerrish called the process “painful.”
“I’m glad it’s finally out of committee,” Rep. Gerrish said. “It was a painful process during both the public hearing and multiple work sessions. Overall. I am pleased with the work the majority of the committee did. We worked it hard and am glad we have an eight-member majority report.”
The public hearing got out of hand as witnesses were allowed to attack the motives of Rep. Sirocki instead of focusing on the substance of the bill — as committee rules dictate. Rep. Sirocki has pointed out multiple times her only motivation for banning FGM is protecting young girls in Maine of this horrific ritual of child abuse.
Throughout the process, language was another a sticking point between committee members. Several Democrats were against using the term “mutilation” in the bill. Another debate revolved around if education funding “may” be provided by the Department of Health and Human Services or if it “shall” be provided by DHHS.
The compromise bill has not yet received a Legislative Document number and is not available for viewing. Sen. Rosen will be the sponsor of the bill.
Since the sponsor is a Senator, the bill will first head to the State Senate, where it will be voted on before the mid-April adjournment. It is expected the majority report from the committee will likely pass in the Senate.
However, when the bill goes to the House, the fight will really begin.
Speaker Gideon will be able to choose to put the majority report up for a full floor vote, or she could instead pick either of the minority reports (the amended version or the “ought not to pass” report).
If the House and Senate don’t pass the same version of the bill, it would then move to a reconciliation process, where all bets would be off. The reconciled bill would then go back to both bodies for votes — leaving the future of a potential Maine FGM ban in question.
Meanwhile, Rep. Sirocki is continuing to fight for the FGM ban and the imperative penalty for parents or guardians who consent to the barbaric abuse.
Rep. Sirocki even reached out to an internationally recognized expert in child advocacy. Elizabeth Yore is the founder of EndFGMToday and YoreChildren; she also worked for Oprah Winfrey as a child advocate. Yore says the consent portion of the bill is a necessity.
“As the international human rights community recognizes, FGM is ‘perpetrated by families’ and, as such, the perpetrators must be held
accountable under the law or nothing will change,” Yore said. “To ignore this reality is to imperil the lives of countless young girls who are without the protection of the law. The global health community reaffirms the urgent need to protect little girls from this gender-based violence.”
Yore points out without the consent of the parent or guardian, FGM would never happen.
“To leave out parents or guardians as the responsible and liable perpetrator under the criminal law is to leave small children defenseless and subject to continuing abuse of this barbaric procedure and practice,” Yore said. “For example, criminally punishing the mutilator who mutilates the oldest daughter in a family does not protect young female children in the family where parents consent to this procedure.”
Yore joins FGM survivor F.A. Cole, Rep. Sirocki and the majority opinion of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee in strongly urging the Maine FGM bill criminalize the person that has immediate custody of the child in FGM cases.
Maine First Media will continue to follow developments on the Female Genital Mutilation Ban bill as it makes its way through the legislature.