How Common Is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the U.S.?

Girls (The Borgen Project)

Girls (The Borgen Project)

Generally, when people the phrase “female gentile mutilation,” they think of countries where that’s a common practice. Well, actually, many people tend to think of just one continent: Africa. It’s implied that since Africa is less developed and empowered, people don’t think it can happen in the U.S.

Well, it does. And significantly. FGM has been coming to light recently here in the U.S. For a quick primer: Forms of FGM include removing the clitoris to completely sewing the vagina lips shut, done for non-medical purposes. The procedure is usually done without anesthesia, and leaves victims with severe repercussions, especially with the reproductive system. The main goal is to ensure the victim’s virginity and sexual loyalty to her partner.

The Population Reference Bureau studied the rate of FGM in the U.S., and published results earlier this year. It’s estimated that 507K+ women have either had the procedure done, or are at-risk of having it. (The results gave no way to break down the number further into those who definitively have had it done.) Some commonalities have been found about those at risk:

The estimated number of girls at risk is based on the number of daughters of immigrants from countries, mostly in Africa and from some communities in Asia, living in the U.S.

Over 166K women at risk are under the age of 18.

Prior to these results, a study was performed in 2000. Fifteen years ago, it was estimated 227K+ women were at risk for FGM. (It’s unclear as to whether the number included women who’d had the procedure done.)

Performing FGM in the U.S. was made illegal in 1996, and the practice of sending a girl to another country for the procedure (termed “vacation cutting”) was made illegal in 2013. It’s clear there are not enough protections in place to stop this barbaric practice, so I hope strides will be made in the right direction.

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