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Let’s work to end female mutilation

According to the World Health Organization, female genital mutilation “comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” According to the same organization, about 140 million girls and women worldwide are living with the consequences of FGM. Cultural, religious, and social factors influence the decision to have young girls undergo this torture. Consequences can include infertility, recurrent infection and long-term risks.

Recently, legislation was signed in the U.S. Congress to prohibit “vacation cutting,” the practice of sending U.S.-based immigrants back to their home countries to undergo FGM during breaks. However, women in the United States continue to be threatened by a practice that even doctors in the developed world are known to carry out because they support it or don’t want to question families’ cultural practices.

According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the United States has had a law against FGM since 1996 and 20 states have passed their own statutes, including New York. However, as of 2012, there have been no prosecutions under federal law, and only one criminal case has been brought forward under a state statute.

As the immigrant population expands in our community from countries in which FGM is practiced (some Middle Eastern and African countries), it is my hope that women become aware that the practice is illegal, and that they do not have to suffer in silence from a harmful traditional practice that is not analogous to male circumcision, represents a human rights abuse and is not a rite of passage.

Brad K. Mazon, Ph.D

Ebenezer