By Bob Katzen

The House 159-0, Senate 39-0, approved a bill making it a crime to perform female genital mutilation on anyone under the age of 18. Offenders would be subject to up to five years in state prison; or a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 2.5 years in a house of correction.

Supporters say that it is estimated that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been the victims of this barbaric act. They note that the procedure has no health benefits for women and girls and, in fact, can cause all kinds of health problems including bleeding, urinary problems and complications in childbirth sometimes leading to the death of the child.

“Today, the Senate has stood up to clearly denounce gender-based violence and affirm our commitment to the health and safety of women and girls across the commonwealth,” said Sen. Joe Boncore (D-Winthrop). “The advocacy and testimonies of survivors, including Mariya Taher, was critical in moving this bill forward. Their resilience and commitment to ensuring that not one more girl suffers is admirable and appreciated. Medical experts have agreed that female genital mutilation has no basis in medical purposes or benefits: it is a method used to control women’s anatomy. By criminalizing female genital mutilation, we tell survivors that they are heard, and we tell girls and women that they are protected from this abuse.”

“We need to tear down societal controls of women’s bodies and this bill is one step towards that goal,” said co-sponsor Rep. Jay Livingstone (D-Boston). “The bipartisan bill would ban genital mutilation, a brutal practice of permanently injuring the sex organs of young girls to physically limit their ability to have sex. It is time for Massachusetts to join the other 38 states that have adopted such a ban.”

“It is imperative that Massachusetts steps up and adopts this bipartisan legislation to make it clear that female genital mutilation/cutting will not be tolerated in the commonwealth,” said co-sponsor Rep. Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster).

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