The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that more than half a million girls in the U.S. have undergone female genital mutilation or FGM. The practice involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia mainly for socio-cultural reasons. According to the CDC, the rate at which the practice is performed in the U.S. showed a threefold increase compared with initial estimates in 1990.
The recent findings coincide with a 2015 report released by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB). The PRB report confirmed the a large number of girls are at risk of undergoing the procedure in the U.S. and abroad. According to the PRB, more than 166,000 of these girls were under the age of 18. The report noted that an increase in the number of immigrants from African and Middle Eastern countries was the primary reason behind the rising FGM rates in the U.S.
Census data showed that African immigration to the U.S. had doubled in every decade since 1970. According to latest statistics, more than 1.8 million African immigrants now reside in the U.S. Of these, 41 percent were found to have immigrated from Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt, all countries that perform FGM. The latest numbers also noted that one in five American girls at risk of FGM were from Egypt.
A recent report in TheDailyBeast.com also revealed that FGM persists among diaspora communities migrating to Western countries. According to the report, the practice has already picked up steam in among migrants of several European and North American countries. The report also noted that school holidays have become synonymous to “cutting season” as migrants come home to their native countries with their daughters in tow to have the procedure performed.
In a move to criminalize the practice, the Michigan Senate has recently deemed female genital mutilation a state felony that is punishable by up to 15 years both for clinicians who perform it and parents who transport a child to have the procedure. The legislation was largely due in part to a case of an emergency room physician that was charged under federal law for performing the procedure on two seven-year-old girls at a medical clinic in suburban Detroit. The legislation now goes to the state House of Representatives.
A Minnesota bill has also deemed the practice a state felony that would result in parents losing child custody and prison sentences from five years to 20 years. The legislation would also increase the penalties for people who perform the surgery. The bill also requires health care professionals and others to report genital mutilation to the authorities.
The bill was met with opposition from some members of Minnesota’s immigrant and refugee communities. The Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, the nonprofit Isuroon and other groups noted that the new legislation features severely harsh punishment and unwanted consequences.
Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that more than 200 million girls and women alive today underwent female genital mutilation in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where the surgery is practiced. According to the WHO, the practice is performed on young girls between infancy and age 15. The organization considers FGM as a human rights violation against young girls and women.
According to the WHO, the procedure does not offer any health benefits in patients, and may even result in various complications. Immediate FGM complications include excessive bleeding, urinary problems, shock, and even death. On the other hand, long-term FGM complications include sexual problems, vaginal issues, and child birth complications. The procedure is also associated with the onset of psychological problems in women, the WHO stated.