Wilson Signs Legislation Forbidding Genital
Mutilation of Girls
Robert B. Gunnison, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau
The practice has appeared among recent immigrants
Governor Pete Wilson yesterday signed a bill to
outlaw female genital mutilation, routinely practiced
in 41 nations in the Middle East and Africa and most
recently appearing in California among new
The bill by Assemblywoman Liz Figueroa, D-Hayward,
was introduced after a newspaper reported five cases of
genital mutilation were discovered among pregnant women
in the San Jose area since 1980.
``This legislation will help protect young girls
from a mutilating procedure that can cause lifelong
physical and psychological damage,'' Wilson said in a
statement. ``Abolishing this cruel practice is vitally
important for the health and welfare of these young
The new law will add one year to the prison sentence
of anyone who violates an existing statute that forbids
unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering. The
maximum term is currently six years in prison.
The law also requires the state to conduct an
education program about the health risks and emotional
trauma of genital mutilation, which is usually
administered to girls about age 13. Practiced by
Muslims, Christians and other religions, the ritual is
thought to keep girls virginal and wives faithful.
The procedure can range from cutting the hood of the
clitoris to the removal of the clitoris and tissue at
the entrance to the vagina. It is often performed with
unsterilized knives, razor blades or pieces of glass
and done without anesthesia, causing pain and possible
infertility, painful intercourse, chronic infections,
incontinence, increased risk in childbirth and
With a week left to dispose of dozens of measures
sent to him by the Legislature last month, Wilson also
signed a bill that will exempt food and cosmetic
containers from a state law that required 25 percent of
the package to be made of recycled materials.
The industry contended that the rule, scheduled to
take effect in January, would result in packages that
contained a ``potential risk of contaminants,'' said
Gene Livingston, lobbyist for the Soap and Detergent
``We're very pleased and relieved as well,''
Livingston said. ``The previous law put us in a very
difficult position. We couldn't comply with the law
without compromising the safety of our packaging.''
Opposing the bill were environmentalists, including
Californians Against Waste, whose lobbyist Luke Breit,
said that the technology existed to insure the purity
of the containers. ``Plastics are the largest volume of
materials going into landfills,'' he said.
Also signed by Wilson was a bill by Assemblyman
Richard Rainey, R-Walnut Creek, that only benefits a
company in his district that converts methane gas from
landfills into methanol.
Rainey carried the legislation on behalf of TeraMeth
Industries Inc., of Walnut Creek, the sole creator of a
technology that converts landfill gases into
The bill requires the State Air Resources Board and
local air quality districts to report on
``noncombustion landfill gas control technology''
Right now, the only such option on the market is
TeraMeth's product, which captures the methane gas
generated from decomposing organic materials in
landfills, refines it and creates methanol, which can
be used in making clean-burning vehicle fuels.
Rainey has said he hopes to give TeraMeth a chance
to compete against other methods of disposing methane
emissions from landfills by having the state list
TeraMeth's technology as an option landfill owners can
Vetoed by Wilson was a bill by Senator Quentin Kopp,
independent-San Francisco, that would have required the
state to transfer its rail cars and locomotives for
local operation to the Peninsula Rail Transit District
for service between San Jose and San Francisco.
Wilson said the bill—which had only one
dissenting vote in the Legislature—would ``alter
the existing agreement negotiated between the
Department (of Transportation) and the district as
originally directed by the Legislature.''
Transfer of the equipment was directed by the
Legislature in 1988, but has been delayed by
negotiations over such issues as liability for costs of
toxic cleanup at stations.
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