In the second half of 2017, MALA received three calls directly related to under-age girls who were at imminent risk of FGM.
These three brought to life the reality that – according to the Centers for Disease Control – nearly half a million girls and young women in America face the threat of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Currently, the resources available for individuals in this position are challenging to navigate. As such, we recognize that the only real solution to this problem is to work towards creating an atmosphere of “zero tolerance” for FGM that can be enforced both through federal policy and community outreach.
MALA is defined by an existential concern for the well-being of all communities in America, and especially of children. Accordingly, we see it as our duty to join the effort to end FGM, and to help build strong and accommodating networks of support and intervention for those affected or at risk.
This discussion was held as part of the 62nd United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and featured a testimonial from a survivor of FGM, followed by an expert discussion on how we can build networks of support and intervention, both at federal and community levels.
Please join us as we explore the next steps to supporting at-risk women and girls in our communities.
|What is “female genital mutilation / cutting”?||Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), sometimes called female circumcision, means piercing, cutting, removing, or sewing closed all or part of a girl’s or woman’s external genitals for no medical reason.
|Are there any benefits from FGM/C?||There are no medical benefits to the procedure. In fact, it’s the opposite — lifelong problems resulting from FGM can include infertility, fistula and trouble menstruating, complications in childbirth, and lack of pleasure during sex. Learn more at HHS Office on Women’s Health.
|At what age is FGM/C done?||According to the World Health Organization, the procedure is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15.
|Why do families engage in the practice?||There are many, complex reasons. Families often feel pressure to have their daughter cut so she is accepted by their community. Other reasons may include: To help ensure a woman remains a virgin until marriage; “hygiene” (some believe that the external female genitals that are cut are unclean); rite of passage; as a condition of marriage; belief that FGM/C increases sexual pleasure for the man; or religious duty, although no religion’s holy texts require FGM/C.
|Are parents who have their daughters cut cruel?||No. Many parents wrongly believe that it is good for their daughters’ health, family prospects, and social status.
|What are the consequences of performing or assisting in FGM/C?||It is against US federal law, and many state laws, to perform FGM/C on a girl under the age of 18, or to send or attempt to send her outside the US to have it performed. Violation of the law is punishable by up to five years in prison, fines, or both. There is no exception for tradition or culture.
|Have women who have undergone FGM/C broken any laws?||Absolutely not. She is not at fault, and she has not violated any US laws by undergoing the procedure. Eligibility for travel to or for immigration benefits from the US are not negatively affected by the fact that a person has undergone FGM/C.
|Where can I learn about survivors’ experiences?||Maryum Saifee is a career U.S. diplomat who is an FGM survivor; she has spoken openly about her story in an effort to help other women. Hibo Wardere described her FGM experience in anguishing detail. And Kadi Doumbia, a women’s advocate in Chicago, shared her survivor’s story with MALA and will speak at the UN during the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women.
|Are there any public resources for reporting and victim support?||To report someone who is performing FGM/C or to report to law enforcement that you or someone else is in danger of undergoing FGM/C, contact the ICE tip line (1-866-347-2423 or www.ICE.gov/tips) or the Department of Justice (1-800-813-5863 or email to HRSTIPS@USDOJ.gov). You do not have to identify yourself when providing information.
To speak with someone immediately about a child at risk of FGM/C or find a crisis counselor who can assist you, call the ChildHelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1-800-422- 4453).
To obtain more information about FGM/C or to locate potential support resources, call the HHS Office on Women’s Health Help Line at 1-800-994-9662.