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Federal Jugde Rules US Ban on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) 'Unconstitutional'

Over 100 young girls from Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois were coerced to undergo the controversial surgery by family members. | Photo: Reuters Over 100 young girls from Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois were coerced to undergo the controversial surgery by family members. | Photo: Reuters
Congress’s ban on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is unconstitutional, a Michigan federal judge ruled Tuesday during the trial of two doctors who face multiple FGM charges, the Detroit Free Press reports.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said Congress lacked authority to outlaw female genital mutilation.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said Congress lacked authority under the Commerce Clause to adopt the 1996 law, and that the power to outlaw female genital mutilation, or FGM, belonged to individual states.

In a 28-page statement, Friedman said, “As laudable as the prohibition of a particular type of abuse of girls may be ... federalism concerns deprive Congress of the power to enact this statute.

“Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit FGM ... FGM is a 'local criminal activity' which, in keeping with longstanding tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress," he wrote.

The religious practice which entails the cutting of the clitoris and which is still seen in northern and central African countries has been banned in 27 U.S. states, civil rights groups report.

Over 100 young girls from Michigan, Minnesota, and Illinois were coerced by their mothers and family members to travel to the Livonia clinic where a pair of doctors operated on them.

The government said one girl, age 7, had told investigators that she and another girl had been taken to Detroit for what they thought was a “special girls’ trip,” and was told not to discuss the FGM procedure after it was completed.

Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider in Detroit, said that his office would review the decision before deciding whether to appeal.

Equality Now’s Global Director, Yasmeen Hassan, said Friedman’s ruling sends a message that women’s rights are not important.

"In this day and age for FGM to still occur — and a federal government can’t regulate this with a human rights violation — is very bizarre. This is not what I expected. It's so not what I expected," said Hassan.

The World Health Organization estimates that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM.

  • Countries: United_States

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