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Minnesota lawmakers seeking increased female genital mutilation penalties

Farhio Khalif testifies to a Minnesota House committee Wednesday, May 3, 2017, about a procedure she underwent as a child known as female genital mutilation, also called female circumcision. With her is Rep. Mary Franson of Alexandria, sponsor of a bill making the procedure a felony; parents could be prosecuted under the bill. Don Davis / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — Minnesota legislation to battle female genital mutilation now includes penalties requiring up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $30,000.

A bill offered by Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, on Monday, May 8, was amended to spell out higher penalties for the crime, starting at five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The measure also would make parents liable for charges.

The bill, which passed on a voice vote out of a House public safety committee, "makes penalties graduated based on level of harm," Rep. Debra Hilstrom, D-Brooklyn Center, said.

The legislation has more committee stops before reaching the full House.

The procedure, also known as female circumcision, is a procedure done in some African and Middle Eastern societies.

Franson said she decided to offer the bill in response to stories about two 7-year-old Minnesota girls who were taken to a Michigan doctor for the procedure. The representative said that while doctors and others in the clinic face charges, the girls' parents do not.

"How are the parents not held responsible?" she asked.

The procedure often is followed by pain, infections, childbirth complications, sexual dysfunction and psychological disorders, among other issues, Franson said.

In other Monday legislative news:

• Gov. Mark Dayton presented an offer for part of the state budget to legislative leaders during a brief meeting, but he and leaders had no comment. They are expected to meet again Tuesday afternoon.

• The House voted 125-0 to establish a special license plate honoring law enforcement officers killed on duty. "It is appropriate ... to allow for a memorial plate to honor and memorialize those law enforcement officers who have served and sacrificed on our behalf," bill sponsor Rep. Duane Quam, R-Byron, said.

• More than 1,000 Star Wars-themed postcards were delivered to the governor's residence to encourage him to "join the resistance" and to fight what conservationists call attacks on clean energy, water and climate change by legislative Republicans.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.