Minnesota Law Unclear on Criminalization of Female Genital Mutilation

Minnesota law criminalizes female genital mutilation and those who perform the procedure, but does nothing to parents who force their child to have the procedure.

FGM, cutting
Image Credit: Plan International

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Female genital mutilation (FGM) is illegal in all 50 states, but Minnesota, and some other states, still allow parents to transport their children elsewhere in the world to have the controversial procedure done.

State law defines female genital mutilation as when someone “knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates, in whole or in part, the labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris.” A CDC report notes the practice occurs in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. These countries are known to have high muslim populations. Equality Now states that the act is performed to “control women’s sexuality” and “to make a girl more acceptable in the community and increases her eligibility for marriage.”

According to a criminal complaint filed with the US District Court, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Detroit, was charged by the Justice Department last week for performing an female genital mutilation procedure on two young girls from Minnesota between the ages of 6-8 years-old.

Two more people were arrested on Friday with conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation in Detroit. The Justice Department arrested Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife, Faida Attar, 50, in connection to an underground female genital mutilation operation located at a local Detroit hospital ran by Nagarwala.

On April 14, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, in conjunction with the Anoka County Attorney filed child protective orders for the two young girls in question according to WCCO.

The state of Minnesota makes it a crime for doctors to perform female genital mutilation procedure for anyone, with the exception of medical purposes related to labor or birth.  

However, according to Minnesota Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), parents are not held accountable.

“[The] Minnesota statute is silent on parental participation,” Franson told Alpha News.

State statute 609.2245, which criminalizes the act of performing female genital mutilation, briefly touches on parental consent stating, “consent to the procedure by a minor on whom it is performed or by the minor’s parent is not a defense to a violation of this subdivision.” The law, however, does not criminalize the parent(s) for their consent or the act of forcing their child to participate in female genital mutilation procedures.

Even more interesting, Minnesota is one of many states throughout the country that does not criminalize what is commonly referred to as “vacation cutting,” or the act of transporting girls out of the United States for female genital mutilation procedures.

While it is a federal crime to perform female genital mutilation procedures on minors, or move them out of the country for purposes of female genital mutilation procedures, many states have not adopted the criminalization of vacation cutting.

Minnesota is one of the few states in the country that has a high population of women at risk for female genital mutilation procedures. Minnesota has one of the largest Somali populations in the country. According to Fox News, Minnesota has at least 40,000 people of Somali descent, though the number is thought to be higher.

A 2012 report from the CDC indicates that 513,000 women are at risk to undergo female genital mutilation procedures. That number could have grown significantly within the last five years with population growth in the community. The report notes that 90 percent of young women in Somalia between the ages of 15-19 are subjected to the female genital mutilation procedure.

Preliminary data from 2013 shows Minnesota having the third largest at-risk population in the country. The Population Reference Bureau shows Minnesota having more than 44,000 women who are potentially at risk of undergoing the procedure, with more than 17,000 girls under the age of 18.

Requests by Alpha News to the CDC in Atlanta and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) for specific data on Minnesota data turned up empty. The CDC referred Alpha News to MDH stating, “At CDC, we don’t collect state-specific data on this topic [sic].” MDH told Alpha News that they did not have state-specific data on female genital mutilation.  

While it is still unknown how the Minnesota legislature will proceed, Franson made one thing clear, “I think the mom needs to be held accountable,” she said.

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.