April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, when America focuses on programs, laws and resources to raise awareness to prevent the ongoing epidemic of child abuse in America. Ironically, Maine child advocates celebrated “The Week of the Young Child”April 16-20.
This week, Maine House Democrats sent a clear message that female genital mutilation (FGM) performed on young girls should not be a crime in their state. So much for child abuse prevention.
And so, in the month dedicated to the prevention of the abuse of children the Maine, House Democrats, along with their leadership voted against “The Act to Prohibit FGM against the minor child,” by a party line vote with 69 GOP (and 1 Dem) voting for the bill and 77 Dems and Independentsvoting against an FGM bill that would criminalize female genital mutilation.
In January 2018, House Speaker and Democrat Sara Gideon, a professed women’s activist, marched and was featured as a prominent speaker at the Maine National Women’s March and demonstration for women’s rights and progressive feminist causes. On her website, Speaker Gideon proudly proclaims that “her desire to positively impact the lives of children and empower women and working families is why she ran for office.”
Why then does she ignore the pleas and evidence of the global organizations? The World Health Organization and the United Nations recognize the need to empower and protect female children by criminalizing FGM and urging all countries to change their laws to outlaw FGM. These organizations know from the horror endured by the 200 million global women who undergo FGM as children, and that FGM invites a lifetime of physical and psychological pain and severe health consequences. Having girls’ genitals cut and excised by mutilators will only end if states and countries criminalize this barbaric practice.
Speaker Gideon in her leadership position cast a ‘no’ vote against the female genital mutilation bill, which would have sent a strong message that mutilating the female genitalia of little girls in Maine is a Class A crime.
Maine now joins the ranks of countries like Libya and Togo that have not criminalized this brutal practice.
The Democratic House legislators who voted against this FGM bill curiously argued that “FGM doesn’t happen in Maine,” despite the fact that Maine is one of only eight federal pilot programs to address the exponential growth of FGM in America. If little girls in Maine are not at risk for FGM, then why is Maine receiving more than $200,000 a year from the federal government to help prevent FGM?
Women activists routinely proclaim that females deserve the protection and full force of the law. Sadly, little immigrant girls in Maine haven’t earned the protection of the law to be free from the brutality of FGM. The Maine House Democrats sent a clear message to all that Maine is a safe harbor for mutilators.
Happy Child Abuse Prevention Month, Mainers!
(Elizabeth Yore is an international child advocate attorney who is heading the EndFGMToday national initiative. For more information, visit EndFGMToday.com.)