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Governor’s Address: We Must Act to Save Girls from Horrific Child Abuse

There’s a horrific type of child abuse happening right here in Maine, and we must stop it. It is graphic and disturbing.

No child should ever be subjected to violence, especially when it leaves them permanently disfigured and interferes with normal bodily functions. But young girls in Maine are being forced to undergo a procedure called “female genital mutilation,” and hundreds more are at risk.

Referred to as “FGM,” this heinous procedure involves partial or total removal of female genitalia for cultural or religious reasons. It is a practice common in many refugee populations, particularly those from East Africa, although the practice is pervasive around the world.

In 2013, Maine had 1,603 women at risk. Of those, 399 were under 18. Exact figures are hard to get because parents don’t report this kind of mutilation, and girls are unlikely to report their parents. But doctors and nurses in our hospitals have seen the brutal results, either on the exam table or in the Emergency Room after it has gone horribly wrong.

Female genital mutilation is practiced on girls as young as infants up until the age of 14. The practitioner is often not a medical professional, yet they remove or partially remove the young girl’s clitoris. They may also alter or remove the vaginal folds or pierce, scar, or cauterize the genital area.

I have presented a Governor’s bill to make female genital mutilation a felony in Maine. The Democrats are sponsoring a separate bill as an alternative so they can look like they are doing something about it. When their bill comes out, hold them accountable.

We must ensure that any bill outlawing FGM allows us to aggressively prosecute these horrific crimes against children.

First, the state needs the authority to prosecute the parents or guardians who bring the child to the mutilator. Otherwise, if the parents take the child to another state where it is not illegal, then return to Maine, we won’t be able to prosecute the crime here. Second, the state needs to prosecute the person who actually mutilates the young girls’ genitals.

A bill that only requires an education program does not hold anyone accountable. Maine already received a federal grant to run an educational program. This has not stopped the mutilation of children. We must be able to prosecute.

Maine cannot be a hub for female genital mutilation procedures. New York, California, Virginia, Michigan and New Jersey have already outlawed this kind of brutality against children. Congress outlawed it in Washington, D.C. and voted last year to triple the penalty.

If you are a mandated reporter and see evidence of a mutilated child, you must report it. You must save these young girls.

Thank you.

Paul R. LePage

Governor

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