Two Small Words Are Slowing Female Genital Mutilation Ban Bill Progress

3/14/18, Maine First Media Staff Report,

The average person would assume passing a ban on a horrific cultural practice that tortures little girls would be a relatively easy and bipartisan proposition.

However, that’s not the case in Augusta.

Criminal Justice and Public Safety committee members still have not reached an agreement on a final version of a Female Genital Mutilation Ban bill.

A stalemate was reached Monday following a more than three-hour work session, as committee members attempt to consolidate two separate FGM Ban bills.

The sticking points appear to be largely centered around wording.

Democrats on the committee are rejecting the word “mutilation,” preferring instead “circumcision, excision, or infibulation.”

However, using “mutilation” prevents FGM supporters from splitting hairs with the language and finding a loophole allowing the barbaric practice to continue.

It looks at this point like the education portion of the Democrats plan will make the final version of the bill. But there is debate over the words, “may” and “shall.” The original language said the Department of Health and Humane Services “may” develop an outreach and education program.

It appears “may” will now change to “shall” in the final version.

The difference is, “may” allows for DHHS discretion on funding the outreach and education program, whereas “shall” forces DHHS funding.

At one point it looked like penalties for parents, guardians or whoever the consenting adult permitting the scarring procedure would be lifted.

However, one of the original bill sponsors, Republican Rep. Heather Sirocki of Scarborough reiterated the importance of making sure any accomplices to the crime face stiff penalties, pointing out the transporting and mutilation would not happen without parent or guardian consent.

Rep. Sirocki tells Maine First Media there are still many moving parts to be figured out.

Another work session will be held this week, and it is expected we’ll know much more about what the final FGM Ban bill coming out of committee will look like at that point.

Maine First Media will continue to cover this bill as it makes its way through the legislature.

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