A bill making it a felony for parents to allow their minor daughters to go through genital mutilation passed the Minnesota House on Monday by a wide margin.
The bill approved 124-4 adds the crime to Minnesota's child abuse laws, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and loss of custody. The push was prompted by the case of two girls from who were taken to Michigan to undergo the procedure, which has resulted in federal criminal charges there.
It is already illegal in Minnesota to perform the procedure but there is doubt about whether parents who willingly allow it to happen can be prosecuted under current abuse and neglect laws.
Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, said the state needs to send a strong signal against what she says is gender violence.
"We're saying that if you harm your child in this way, you're going to be held responsible, parents. I don't care what religion, what culture, anything," she said. "I would say this to anyone. This we are not going to stand for."
Franson’s bill also requires teachers, day care workers and other so-called mandatory reporters to alert authorities if they encounter a case of genital mutilati2017on.
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Similar legislation has been introduced in the state Senate but has yet to get a hearing.
One of four DFLers to oppose the bill said it’s too drastic a penalty.
Rep. Tina Liebling of Rochester, who is a candidate for governor, said she wants to stop female genital mutilation but she worries about unintended consequences.
"Frankly, I worry that this bill will create additional harm to girls who have been egregiously harmed, when they get separated from their families, when possibly their families get deported,” Liebling said. “And whether knowing that somebody will throw this underground and result in more harm, and having this practice become more prevalent instead of less. That’s what concerns me and I think should concern all of us.”