Ohio may ban female genital mutilation for girls under 18

Ohio does not explicitly prohibit female genital mutilation — a practice that state Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, wants to outlaw for girls under 18.

“It is pretty evident that it’s an extremely painful procedure and it has life-long effects on young women,” Lehner said.

Lehner is sponsoring Senate Bill 214, which would make female genital mutilation of anyone under 18 a felony. Even transporting a child to a place that is going to perform the mutilation would be a crime. Violators could be subject to jail time, plus a fine of up to $25,000.

The bill also says violators can’t use the defense “cultural or ritual necessity” or consent by the child or her parents.

Ohio is among two dozen states that do not prohibit female genital mutilation, according to the AHA Foundation. The practice has been banned under federal law since 1996 and in 2013 the law was modified to outlaw “vacation cutting” — taking a girl overseas for the procedure.

The foundation estimates that 10,000 to 25,000 girls in Ohio are at risk of being mutilated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that half a million females are at risk nationwide.

The prohibition doesn’t apply to procedures performed for medical reasons by licensed surgeons.

FGM can lead to severe pain, bleeding, shock, cysts and scarring, pain during sex and possible complications during childbirth.

FGM is accepted in some cultures and it is performed without anesthetic by a traditional practitioner with crude instruments, according to a guide to Somali culture published by the Ohio Department of Homeland Security. The procedure is performed on infants to adolescents and occasionally grown women. The most common FGM is excision of the clitoris and labia minoria.

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