Congresswoman-elect Ilhan Omar, newly elected as a representative in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, has a controversial stance on a bill designed to protect girls from genital mutilation.
Despite being hailed as a “Justice Warrior”, Omar has sided with the members of the refugee and immigrant community in the state who object to protections for minor girls and adult women. The bill that is designed to impose harsh penalties to parents who force their girls to have this procedure, has faced repeated roadblocks from the immigrant community.
While the bill passed almost unanimously and aims to protect women and girls from a barbaric practice, those within the immigrant community objected to the legislation. According to the Minnesota Star Tribune, groups including the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, the non-profit Isuroon and politicians like Omar are arguing against the protective legislation. Opponents call it unfair and that the punishment for mutilating girls is “too harsh”. They also state that the law could prevent parents from seeking medical treatment after they allow their children to be mutilated out of fear of legal repercussions.
While Omar, hailed as a liberal protector of women, has stated the bill is too harsh for offenders, the Senate GOP continues to take action. According to the author of the house bill, Mary Franson, the pressure from these outside groups and newly elected members could imperil girls and young women.
“[Opponents are] more concerned with perception than doing the right thing and protecting girls,” she said. “Watering down the bill really does a disservice to the little girls who are in danger.”
The contested bill makes the procedure practiced in fundamentalist Muslim sects a felony, and can lead to loss of custody for parents that go through with it. Loss of custody and prison terms are also on the table, and those who perform the procedure also face prosecution. The procedure has been illegal in Minnesota for over 20 years; immigrant communities continue to force girls to submit, despite the law.
Of the 128 voting house members, only four voted against the bill offering further protection to children, including the newly elected Ilhan Omar. In addition to penalties designed to deter the practice, the bill includes education about the dangers of the practice. According to the Star Tribune, about a dozen immigrant communities continue this practice, despite it being already illegal in the state.
According to Franson, the new bill is designed to protect girls from a procedure that is known to cause immediate and lifetime harm.
“America is the land of the brave and the home of the free,” she said. “Little girls who moved here from other countries have the right to be free from the oppression of female genital mutilation.”
Omar continues to state she is protective of girls and women’s rights, but to speak out against the very bill designed to protect them from this outlawed practice.
~ Liberty Planet