As a native New Yorker, I never considered the risk of Female Genital Mutilation in my hometown. However, a recent study by American non-profit Sanctuary for Families shows that in New York City women are more at risk of undergoing FGM than ever before.
Female Genital Mutilation within the United States has been illegal for many years. In January 2013, President Obama signed The Girls Protection Act into law, which makes “vacation cutting”, or returning girls to their native lands to undergo FGM, a federal crime. However, the increase in immigrants on American soil has caused a dramatic increase in girls at risk for Female Genital Mutilation.
Sanctuary for Families’ study revealed that the number of American girls at risk of the procedure has increased to 200,000 women, up 35% since 2000. Experts also estimate that the New York metropolitan area is home to more women and girls at risk than any other U.S. city.
The report also confirms that FGM is performed within the States by health care providers who either support FGM or do not wish to question families’ cultural practices. It is also reported that even when performed by health care providers in the United States, it is often done using crude implements such as razor blades.
Sanctuary for Families is proposing a more proactive, coordinated response to better protect girls from FGM within the United States. This will include community and survivor-led outreach and education to engage religious and community leaders, parents, survivors, and at-risk women and girls.
As major US cities continue to diversify, Americans must strive to remain current with international issues. I will return to New York with a newfound sensitivity towards FGM and a desire to create change within my community.
-Francesca Toscano, Intern at FORWARD