Some practitioners are happy to perform brutal female genital mutilation (FGM) procedures on little girls on kitchen tables in New York City, warns a leading organization.
More than 48,400 women and girls in the state of New York are at risk of or have undergone FGM, estimates the Population Reference Bureau.
And the AHA Foundation — a global activist group fighting for an end to violence against women — says these terrifying and brutal procedures are happening right under our noses.
Senior director Amanda Parker told Metro US: ‘With that number of at risk women and girls from communities where FGM is practiced in the state, with a large concentration in New York City, we are deluding ourselves if we think it’s not happening right in Manhattan.
‘There is a very high probability that within immigrant communities in Manhattan and in the outer boroughs, there are practitioners who are happy to cut little girls on the kitchen table.’
There are an estimated 513,000 women and girls at risk of or who have undergone FGM in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of girls at risk has quadrupled over the last 20 years because of increases in the number of immigrants with high prevalence rates in their countries of origin.
Frustratingly, there are no concrete numbers on exactly how often it happens because the practice is behind closed doors.
‘We know that a significant number of girls are taken overseas for the procedure each year, typically over the summer holiday in what’s known as “vacation cutting”,’ Parker continued.
‘The reason for doing it over the summer break is to keep teachers from suspecting what has been done to the girls, and to give them time to heal.’
Vacation cutting was made illegal in 2013, and FGM has been a crime under federal law since 1996. It is punishable by up to five years in prison.
In addition to federal law, FGM has been criminalized across 26 US states.
But law is doing little to stop the barbaric procedures.
FGM was recently in the headlines when Dr Jumana Nagarwala was charged with cutting girls in Livonia, Michigan. The case is believed to be the first of its kind in the US.
Prosecutors said she cut around 100 girls aged between six and eight over a 12-year period — and this is just one practitioner in one city. That gives an idea as to the scale of this problem.
The main reason it still happens today is to control the sexuality of women and girls, and to ensure virginity on a girl’s wedding night
Parker explained: ‘Families do this not because they want to harm their daughters but because they think that what they are doing is in her best interests. The best future they can imagine for her is a marriage to the right husband, and in cultures where FGM is practiced, in order to attract the right husband, a girl must be cut.
‘There are various types of FGM, the most extreme form involves taking a young girl — as early as infancy, but typically from the ages of four to around 14 — behind closed doors and forcing apart her knees. Women from the family or community will hold her down.
‘Then, a practitioner will use whatever tool is available to them, a razor blade, scissors, or a knife, to cut away the external part of the clitoris, the inner and outer labia, and the wound is sewn shut leaving a small hole to allow for urination and menstruation. This is often done without anesthesia.’
There are lifelong health and psychological consequences associated with FGM.
Girls can suffer from shock, blood loss, and infection immediately after the procedure. But long-lasting mental impacts include depression and suicidal thoughts.
There is no quick resolve to ending FGM. Parker says education is key if we are to wipe it out eventually.
‘Although there is no major religion that requires FGM, many communities do so believing their religion or culture requires it,’ she continued. ‘Reaching out and working with community leaders and religious leaders to educate them on the incredibly harmful nature of FGM and the fact that it is not necessary for any reason has been helpful in turning the tide among some communities who practice FGM.
‘Another important focus of education needs to be the business case for educating girls and encouraging them to be productive members of society. Empowering them to rely on themselves rather than on their husbands for their livelihood takes away the need for families to find their daughter a husband who will “take care of her”.
‘Men and boys can play an important role in ending FGM. If men from communities where FGM is practiced were to stand up and say they prefer to marry women who are not cut, the practice would absolutely end.’
Originally posted on Metro.co.uk: