Judge Rules Federal Law Banning Female Genital Mutilation Unconstitutional

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On Tuesday, a Michigan federal judge ruled against the federal government when he found unconstitutional a federal law banning female genital mutilation (FGM). Reuters reported, “U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said Congress lacked authority under the Commerce Clause to adopt the 1996 law, and that the power to outlaw female genital mutilation, or FGM, belonged to individual states.”

As the Chicago Tribune reported, “Prosecutors allege that Nagarwala may have subjected up to 100 girls to the procedure over a 12-year period, though they have cited nine victims in the case: two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota; four Michigan girls ages 8-12, including one who was given Valium ground up in liquid Tylenol during her procedure; and three Illinois girls.”

In his decision, Friedman repeatedly referred to the practice of FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the clitoris, as criminal assault, but decided that it was a crime that would have to be prosecuted under state law. He wrote, “As despicable as this practice may be, it is essentially a criminal assault. FGM is not part of a larger market and it has no demonstrated effect on interstate commerce. The Commerce Clause does not permit Congress to regulate a crime of this nature.” He added, “Application of these principles to the present case leads to the conclusion that Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit FGM. Like the common law assault at issue in Bond, FGM is ‘local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with longstanding tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.” – READ MORE

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