N.C. Sen. Joyce Krawiec introduced a bill on Wednesday that would ban female genital mutilation in the state.
Krawiec, R-Forsyth, said she filed Senate Bill 9 “because we must protect our girls from this abuse of being mutilated ... and this barbaric procedure.”
“When this issue has been brought up, most people can’t believe it’s not already illegal to do this in North Carolina.”
The bill, if passed, would make it a Class C felony — with a 44 to 182 month prison sentence — for someone to perform the procedure in North Carolina, as well as a parent, guardian or another person to consent to the procedure.
The bill would be effective Dec. 1. Krawiec said the effective date would "give time for notification of the new statute to legal authorities, and give time to educate and notify medical providers of the change in statute."
Krawiec said she has heard no opposition to the bill, whether in the legislature or from constituents.
FGM is defined as the partial or complete removal/circumcision of the labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris, for nonmedical reasons. The practice is done in parts of India and northern and southern Africa as a means of controlling the sexuality of women.
It is a criminal offense in 27 states, banned in 59 countries and considered a human rights violation by the World Health Organization.
However, a federal law banning the act was struck down in November by a federal court in Michigan, which said the states should decided what they want to permit.
Krawiec said the federal court ruling could prompt those who support FGM to bring underage girls to North Carolina to have the procedure done here without fear of facing a felony.
Krawiec said she did not know how many girls in North Carolina are at risk of having the procedure done to them.
According to a Brigham and Women’s Hospital report, 4,287 girls and women, including 973 under age 18, in North Carolina come from families who immigrated here from countries that practice FGM. The report says those girls and women could be at risk of having FGM performed on them.
Nationwide, 227,887 girls and women, including 62,519 under age 18, could be at risk, the report said.
In most FGM studies, the number is calculated by estimating the size of immigrant populations from countries that practice female genital cutting and then multiplying the size of the female immigrant population by the rate at which female genital cutting occurs in their country of origin, said Kristina Gupta, an assistant professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Wake Forest University.
“If there are 10 women and girls from a country of origin in which 50 percent of the women and girls have undergone female genital cutting, researchers conclude that five women and girls are at risk,” Gupta said.
Gupta said it remains “unknown whether this is a real problem in North Carolina” because it is unknown “whether all, some or none of these women and girls actually underwent female genital cutting.”
“I don’t think it is known whether immigrants, their children or their grandchildren are more at risk.”
According to an NPR report, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled in November that Congress “overstepped its bounds” in prohibiting the practice in 1996.
Friedman said FGM is a “ ‘local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with long-standing tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.”
The ruling dismissed charges of FGM and conspiracy against two Michigan doctors accused of cutting at least nine girls in a Detroit clinic. The ruling dismissed charges against two mothers accused of assisting in the procedures, and four mothers accused of bringing their daughters to the clinic for the practice, some across state lines.
The defendants are members of the Indian Muslim Dawoodi Bohra community, which practices a form of FGM as a religious rite of passage.
Krawiec’s bill creates a surgical exemption if FGM is performed as a medically necessary procedure by a state-licensed medical practitioner, including for a mother as or after she gives birth.
The bill states that it is not a legal defense to claim that FGM was performed as a requirement of custom or ritual. The bill also would not allow a defense that a female under age 18 had given permission to have the procedure.
N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who attended a press conference Wednesday during which Krawiec announced the bill, said the bill “is not a religious practices, but a cultural practices” legislation.
Gupta said it is possible that “the singling out of female genital cutting from other types of bodily modification procedures performed on children for social, cultural and religious reasons is likely the result of partisanship and anti-Muslim racism.”
“There are a variety of types of female genital cutting, ranging from minor to major alterations.
“Minor alterations may be comparable to other bodily modifications that some parents subject their children to, such as piercings, cosmetic surgeries and male circumcision."