Concern About the Genital Mutilation of American Girls Grows

Activists and a few U.S. Representatives are trying to heighten awareness about female genital mutilation, especially regarding American girls in danger of harm during "vacation cutting season."

On Wednesday, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), female genital mutilation (FGM) survivor and activist Jaha Marie Dukureh and Shelby Quast of Equality Now met in Washington D.C. to encourage the Obama administration to "develop a comprehensive cross-agency strategy to better protect American girls from the harmful practice" of female genital mutilation. The New York Times reports that as the number of immigrants from African nations grows, so does concern that young women sent back to their ancestral country of origin to visit during the summer months will return having been forced to undergo cutting. There are various numbers being thrown around for how many American women and girls are at risk for cutting – anywhere between 70,000 to over 200,000.

FGM is already illegal in the United States, but only a few states have "vacation provisions" specifying that it is illegal to inflict FGM on a girl traveling out of the U.S. Action on this issue been encouraged by Dukureh, a 24-year-old Gambian immigrant who started a Change.org petition that has over 200,000 signatures on it:

I hear from girls everyday that were born here in the United States who have been through FGM. These young women are your average American teenagers — some of them you know, some of them you went or go to school with. And there are many more girls in the US that are at risk of being cut.

Crawley and Jackson Lee have written their own letter to their fellow members of Congress about the issue. According to Dukureh's petition, they're all asking "President Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services, to take the essential first step of commissioning a report on the current statistics of women in the US impacted by FGM and the girls at risk of being mutilated." This type of strategy has recently worked elsewhere – in Great Britain, an advertising campaign devoted to spreading awareness about the issue is underway. It too was sparked by a Change.org petition started by an FGM activist.

Image via Nichol Brummer/Flickr