Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation Tuesday making female genital mutilation a felony in Michigan.
Female genital mutilation, or FGM, is seen as a religious ritual in some Muslim communities and is practiced primarily in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. While the practice varies, it typically involves mutilating or removing portions of female genitalia in order to prevent sexual pleasure.
According to ABC News, female genital mutilation is a federal crime that carries a punishment of five years in prison. The new Michigan legislation makes the practice a felony punishable by 15 years in prison under state law. It also penalizes those who knowingly facilitate genital mutilation and increases the statute of limitations on the crime, allowing victims more time to seek damages.
ABC News also reported that Michigan is the 26th state to officially ban the practice in the United States.
The Michigan legislation comes after federal authorities charged multiple Detroit-area doctors with performing female genital cutting this spring.
According to the Detroit Free Press, prosecutors said Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, an American-born member of a small Indian-Muslim sect known to use the practice, carried out FGM procedures in Michigan for years. She is currently awaiting trial.
Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Farida Attar, were also arrested earlier this year for allegedly conspiring with Nagarwala.
Snyder said in a statement that “those who commit these horrendous crimes should be held accountable for their actions, and these bills stiffen the penalties for offenders while providing additional support to victims.”
“This legislation is an important step toward eliminating this despicable practice in Michigan while empowering victims to find healing and justice,” he added.
According to the governor’s office, Snyder signed an additional bill that allows a health professional’s license or registration to be permanently revoked if they are convicted of female genital mutilation.