The motto of the state of Maine is Dirigo – Latin for ‘I lead’. Bellwether wants to know who’s leading the fight to protect little girls in Maine from genital mutilation.
A Republican-sponsored bill to outlaw the barbaric procedure is being opposed by Democrats, who say they fear it will offend the cultural sensitivity of the approximately 10,000 Somalis living in the state. But there’s an uglier, more malevolent reason lurking behind the scenes.
Female genital mutilation – in which a young girl’s clitoris is cut out and her vagina stitched closed – is commonly practiced in Somalia, where it is estimated 90 percent of the female population has undergone the ritual. The intention is to ensure that girls remain chaste until they are married, and that they derive no pleasure from sexual activity.
With the arrival over the past several years of thousands of Somali refugees and asylum seekers in Maine, the tradition of FGM also crossed the ocean. So-called “cutters”, who are usually female midwives, often perform the procedure without anesthesia and with dirty razor blades. Some victims suffer from urinary tract problems as a result.