North Carolina state Senator Joyce Krawiec (R-D31) alongside Lt. Governor Dan Forest and state Senator Sawyer (R-D34) held a press conference Wednesday introducing a bill to prevent Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in North Carolina.
FGM is a barbaric procedure to remove the clitoris entirely or in part, and is usually performed on female infants and on girls up to the age of fifteen – often without anesthesia.
Joining Senators Joyce Krawiec & Vickie Sawyer at 1245PM to announce the filing of #FGM Legislation for North Carolina – we will be streaming press conference on FB Live #ncpol @AHAFoundation https://t.co/HGpJwNRVZY
— Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (@LtGovDanForest) January 30, 2019
The background information provided in a press release by the Lt. Governor’s office states that North Carolina is “one of only 22 States that does not criminalize this act.”
The CDC estimates that 500,000 women in the United States who have been a victim or are at risk of being a victim,” said Senator Krawiec. “One-third of those are girls. We want to make sure we protect our underage girls in North Carolina.”
Materials provided in the press release state that health organizations believe “approximately 10,000 girls are at risk” in North Carolina.
The bill bans FMG and makes it a Class C felony for whoever provides the procedure or for anyone subjecting a minor female to such a procedure.
Senator Krawiec also noted that there is a “no defense clause” in the bill which blocks anyone from using culture or religion as a defense for breaking the law. In addition, anyone charged with engaging in FGM procedures cannot claim that the minor involved gave permission.
Krawiec said the bill will be filed and posted to the legislature website this week.
“This is a bi-partisan bill,” said Lt. Governor Dan Forest. “I haven’t heard any opposition to this anywhere across the board – not just within the senate or the house but throughout anywhere in North Carolina.”
The Lt. Governor said he felt that turning this issue back to the states to decide was the right move and that the states, including North Carolina, were stepping up to take responsibility.
“That’s what we’re doing here in North Carolina. It’s the right thing to do.” said the Lt. Governor.
When asked why such a bill might be needed, Senator Krawiec pointed to a federal law dating back to 1996 that prohibited FGM being recently overturned. That case was the United States of America v. Nagarwala.
In the Nagarwala case, which was the first case of its kind, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman overturned the law stating in his ruling that such a practice should be decided by the states.
“As despicable as this practice may be, it is essentially a criminal assault,” Friedman wrote in the November 2018 ruling.
Friedman used the Commerce Clause as the rationale for overturning the decade’s old law.
“FGM is not part of a larger market and it has no demonstrated effect on interstate commerce,” wrote Judge Friedman. “The Commerce Clause does not permit Congress to regulate a crime of this nature.”
In ruling the law unconstitutional, the judge also set free a doctor and others charged in the crime.
The main defendant was Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, but a total of eight people were charged in Michigan Federal Court.
The case involved the genital mutilation over a three year period of nine girls from Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois. Prosecutors in the case say the girls were each around 7 years old.
Nagarwala maintained that she performed a “religious custom” on the girls which comes from a Muslim sect in India called “Dawoodi Bohra.”
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A.P. Dillon is the North Carolina Bureau Chief for The Tennesee Star and a reporter at Battleground State News. Follow A.P. Dillon on Twitter. Email Tips to APDillon.News@gmail.com.
Photo “Dan Forest” by Dan Forest.
Background Photo “North Carolina Capital” by Ron Cogswell. CC BY 2.0.