When you think of female genital mutilation (FGM), most of us believe that this human rights violation only happens in African counties and in the Middle East. But a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that this horrid practice is happening in the U.S., with the risk of FGM tripling in the past 25 years and quadrupling among girls 18 and younger.
In 1990, the risk of FGM, the act the partially or totally removing the clitoris, was thought to potentially affect 168,000 women and girls. But since 2012, that number has jumped to a whopping 513,000.
But what’s going on?
This alarming spike can be blamed on a combination of factors, including an increasing wave of immigrants settling in the U.S. over the years who have come from nations and parents where this tradition is deemed a tradition.
And while half a million women and girls is definitely lot, the CDC emphasized that the exact number of women and girls being cut on American soil is unknown given “their lack of reliable data,” Think America pointed out.
“This shows it’s not just something that happens ‘over there’ but it’s something that happens in this country,” Shelby Quast, Americas director for Equality Now, a global group that works to end violence, told Think America.
And while this study is a step in the right direction, Quast believes that as a nation we need to be doing more, especially given that this new data came 25 years after the last study about FGM in the U.S. was conducted.
She told The Guardian, “The US needs to continue to step up and take charge. This means implementing the law on FGM more effectively, but that also includes training professionals who come in contact with girls at risk or survivors, including health care workers, teachers and social workers.”
FGM, which is normally done without any type of anesthesia, is very serious and can have long-lasting health effects. According the World Health Organization (WHO):
- Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating, and later cysts, infections, infertility as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.
- More than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut in the 29 countries in Africa and Middle East where most FGM is concentrated.
- FGM is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15.
FGM has been illegal in the U.S. for the past 20 years.