Female genital mutilation (FGM) isn’t something that you hear about often in the United States. In fact, if you mention it, most will think you’re talking about a third-world country where inhumane things like this can take place.
But unfortunately, it is happening in the United States more than we know.
A new report revealed that over half a million women and girls in the US were at risk for “female genital mutilation/cutting or its consequences” in 2012.
That figure is more than ‘three times higher’ than a 1990 estimate, when 168,000 girls and women were thought to be at risk, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For the purpose of the analysis, the CDC defined ‘at risk’ as potentially having undergone FGM in the past or at risk for undergoing FGM in the future.
The World Health Organization and United Nations define FGM as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious or other non-therapeutic reasons”.
Female genital mutilation is the practice in which some or all of the female genitals are removed, typically with a blade or a razor and many times without anesthesia.
This includes removing the clitoral and the fold of skin above it, and removing labia – the inner ‘lips’ of the vagina.
In the most severe form, the inner and outer labia are removed and the opening of the vagina is closed with a small hole so the woman can pass urine and menstrual blood.
Sometimes the vagina is then cut open for sex or childbirth.
Women sometimes bleed to death or can be left with horrifying health effects, such as infections, chronic pain, cysts, infertility and problems giving birth.
It is most commonly practiced in Africa, as well as some countries in South Asia and the Middle East – and has been illegal in the US since 1996.
The report said: ‘The estimated increase was wholly a result of rapid growth in the number of immigrants from FGM-practicing countries living in the United States and not from increases in FGM prevalence in those countries.’
The CDC’s report said: “In slightly more than two decades, from 1990 to 2012, the total number of women and girls in the United States at risk for FGM or its consequences increased by 224 per cent, from 168,000 to 545,000.”
Immigrants from Egypt, Ethiopia and Somalia had the highest risk for FGM.
However, the report noted that the data didn’t present information on the extent to which FGM is practised in the US.
FGM goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the report said.
But nearly three million girls undergo FGM each year.
Some immigrants have tried to sustain the practice after moving to the US, either by having their daughters cut locally or sending them oversees for the purpose of having them cut – which is known as ‘vacation cutting’.
The US Congress in 1996 passed the Federal prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, which…