2018-02-08 / Editorial

The Right Side

FGM should not be a Dem, Rep issue
by Mike Coleman

First off, I must warn you that the subject matter of this week’s column is quite disturbing. As a father of a beautiful young lady I cannot understand how any parent would want to mutilate a daughter’s private parts to make her a more desirable potential wife. This practice is known as female genital mutilation and according to the World Health Organisation, “comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

These horrific practices generally are not performed in a medical setting nor are common, medically appropriate and sanitary protocols practiced. While this practice has no legitimate place in any civilized country it has become an issue because it is a traditional practice among certain immigrant communities here in Maine. Unlike male circumcision, which does have practical sanitary advantages and is generally practiced in a medical setting and uses sanitary protocols if part of a religious ceremony, female genital mutilation has no medical or sanitary advantage. In fact, it makes infection of the affected area more likely.

During the first session of this legislative term, Rep. Heather Sirocki (R-Scarborough) introduced a bill to outlaw this horrific practice. Unbelievably, it died when the Maine House of Representatives in a party line vote failed to concur with the version passed by the Senate. Sadly, all but two Democratic representatives voted against final passage including all from Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach and Saco. The bill died by one vote. All Republicans voted for final passage. Democrats talking points about the “Republican war on women” is nothing but empty rhetoric. It may be more accurate to talk about a “Democrat war on women.” It was only a few years ago when then Rep. Amy Volk (R-Scarborough) and now state senator had her bill outlawing human trafficking initially blocked by Democrats on the Legislative Council. Human trafficking primarily affects women and children who are trapped as sex slaves. They were shamed into reversing that decision and now Maine has another tool to help those women trapped as sex slaves.

One of the reasons given for not enacting this bill was that the practice is already against federal law. The United States Attorney for Maine initiated only about 150 prosecutions in the 2016 fiscal year, far less than even the smallest prosecutorial district in our state handles monthly. The simple fact is that the states are primarily responsible for law and order within their borders. The federal court system does not have the capacity to handle these types of offenses effectively. Another reason was that it would be preferable to engage in more outreach with the immigrant communities where this practice is part of their culture. This practice is so horrific and so dangerous that it deserves specific legal prohibition. Once performed on a young girl there is no way she can be made whole again. This disfiguring practice cannot be reversed. It should be treated as a felony under the laws of our state.

Gov. Paul LePage in his latest radio address stated that he is introducing a governor’s bill to outlaw female genital mutilation in Maine. Hopefully the Maine Legislature will do the right thing this time and enact this important protection for these vulnerable girls. Many of these girls’ families come from parts of the world where females do not enjoy the equality and protection under the law they deserve. Here in Maine no one should be a victim of this barbarism. Please contact your state representative and state senator to tell them to support the governor’s bill outlawing this horrific practice.

Mike Coleman is a former town councilor in Old Orchard Beach and was a member of the Maine Republican State Committee from 2010 through 2017 where he served as budget chairman under three separate state chairmen. He represented Maine at the Republican National Convention as an alternate in 2012. He recently left the Republican Party and became an Independent.

Return to top