Proposed FGC Bill is Baseless, Meaningless, and Racist

By Kadra Abdi

Over the past two years, white Republican lawmakers in Minnesota have proposed a policy that would criminalize families and communities impacted by female genital cutting (FGC), including this recent one in 2018. The bill has received public opposition from progressive female lawmakers like Rena Moran who has been working in collaboration with Somali women who are directly impacted by FGC.

The practice of FGC is a felony in Minnesota, and current proposed laws will only continue to isolate women. Research shows that best practice around FGC eradication involves intentional community engagement, on changing long-held traditional practice, with impacted girls and women. This approach – versus laws – is what works in eradicating FGC.

More importantly, FGC is not currently happening in Minnesota. Proposing a bill on an issue not currently experienced by women in Minnesota is a waste of public resources, and merely attempts to criminalize a practice falsely perceived as “Islamic.” In fact, this bill is part of a national trend to instill hate against the “Muslim boogeyman.” Over a dozen baseless anti-Sharia bills have emerged around the country in recent years with support from anti-Muslim and neo-Nazi groups. These laws are not rooted in solving issues impacting our community; they are rooted in institutionalizing hate against Muslims and fueling Islamophobia. Instead of proposing a bill, lawmakers need to think about FGC from an informed, comprehensive perspective. They must:

  • Contextualize the issue: FGC is a complex issue, which should be examined through historical lens and dialogue. Conscious reasons, as well as the effective functions of the practice, must both be addressed. The oppression or subordination of women, their poverty, and their restricted opportunities are more fundamental issues to address if we wish to understand both people’s willingness to continue to participate in these practices, and the obstacles that reformers must face. Put simply: understanding the historical, socio-cultural, and economic context is vital to the analysis.

  • Challenge the bill and amplify the voices of women: It is critical to provide space for women to shape dialogue and lay the foundation for meaningful change. Black and brown women play an active role in educating each other about the physical and psychological impacts of FGC. This education helped reduce the spread of FGC without any criminalization or profiling. This holistic approach empowered and educated women to break the cycle. Conversations and policies around the issues should be led by women from a diverse community of affected girls and women.

If passed, this bill could do more harm by preventing survivors of FGC from seeking help, fearing the criminal backlash against themselves or their families. We must find ways to support women that is 1) proportional to the problem, and 2) supportive in ways that are meaningful to women. White lawmakers cannot impose laws and policies that impact black and brown women without them leading the way.

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