Bills to stop female genital mutilation soon heading to the governor

LANSING, Mich. — Legislation to help end the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Michigan will soon be sent to the governor.

“Female genital mutilation is a horrific act of barbarism inflicted on young girls throughout the world and even here in Michigan,” said Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “The recent case in Southeast Michigan, where little girls as young as 6 years old were mutilated by local doctors, was sickening and evil. It was a violation of human rights that cannot — and will not — be tolerated.”

Senate Bills 337 and 338, sponsored by Sen. Margaret O’Brien and Jones, would ban the practice of FGM in Michigan. The bills would make the practice a felony crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“With this legislation, we are taking a stand to protect all Michigan girls and women from this disturbing act,” said O’Brien, R-Portage. “Female genital mutilation has no place in our state or anywhere else, and I look forward to seeing Michigan join 24 other states in outlawing this oppressive procedure that permanently devastates so many young lives.”

SBs 368 and 369, sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and Sen. Judy Emmons, would prohibit someone from transporting a girl to have this procedure carried out. Under the bills, the crime would be a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

“This barbaric procedure has no accepted health benefits and is only performed to exercise control over young women,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “We need to give law enforcement and prosecutors every available tool to bring the perpetrators to justice.”

The bills stem from a recent case in which Michigan-based doctors were arrested and charged for allegedly conspiring to perform FGM on minors, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“These bills would target those responsible for transporting young girls to be mutilated,” said Emmons, R-Sheridan. “The impact of the savagery we are fighting is tremendous. These traumatic procedures are usually performed without anesthetic, and victims can have ongoing psychological and physical health consequences, including infection, pain and even death.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, FGM refers to cutting and other procedures that injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Federal law prohibits anyone in the country from knowingly excising or infibulating the genitals of any girl under 18 years of age.

The House approved SBs 337-338 and 368-369 on Thursday. The bills will now return to the Senate to be enrolled and sent to the governor.

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Senate panel approves bills to crack down on animal fighting

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would crack down on animal fighters and organizers.

Senate Bills 413 and 414 would establish that animal fighters and organizers convicted of their second offense would be guilty of a felony and receive a mandatory minimum sentence of 18 months to four years. They also would be fined $5,000 to $50,000 and/or receive 500 to 1,000 hours of community service.

“We are sending a strong message that Michigan does not tolerate the barbaric behavior of animal fighting,” said Senator Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, sponsor of the bills. “Many violent criminals first abused animals. By ensuring that Michigan law properly sentences and deters people from engaging in animal fighting, we can effectively crack down on this brutal degradation of animals and ensure public safety.”

Those who attend fights, breed animals or who fight or sell equipment for such fights would, on their second offense, be charged with a felony and receive a mandatory minimum sentence of nine months to four years. They also would be fined $1,000 to $5,000 and/or receive 250 to 500 hours of community service.

A person with any conviction for animal fighting or organizing a fight would receive a five-year ban on owning the same type of animal species involved. Any person in violation of this ban would be guilty of a misdemeanor and be punished by up to one year or fined $1,000 to $2,500. Each animal that a person owns or possesses in violation of the ban would constitute a separate offense.

“Even though Michigan has one of the strongest animal fighting laws in the nation, repeat offenders are often given probation or meager sentences,” said Lydia Sattler, Michigan state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “The punishment should fit the crime, and animal fighting is a violent crime that brutalizes animals, degrades entire communities, and involves other illegal activities such as drug and weapons trafficking. We applaud Senator Margaret O’Brien for sponsoring legislation to ensure that repeat offenders receive meaningful punishment.”

The bills now advance to the full Senate for further consideration. Rep. Brandt Iden has introduced companion legislation, House Bill 4669, in the House of Representatives.

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