Immigrants are all drawn to America for one reason or another. Yet they all have one thing in common: They tend to retain their cultural practices, good or bad, once they arrive in America. One of the worst practices to be incorporated here in America is female genital mutilation (FGM). Why do it? It is an outdated practice that would ensure that a potential bride would be chaste due to her inability to enjoy sex. Most men who participate in this cruel cultural practice will not marry a woman unless she has had this procedure. This creates a cultural norm that is never-ending. This is a cultural practice, not a religious one. According to the FBI,

More than 500,000 women and girls across the country—most of them living in metropolitan areas—are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation, a procedure that has long been practiced in many African and Middle Eastern countries as a cultural custom but has been illegal in the U.S. since 1996.”

This practice is typically performed on young girls before the age of five. The external female genitalia is surgically removed by members in the community who monetarily benefit from it. There are three different types of FGM that vary by how much is surgically removed or sewn together. The severity goes up as the number goes up.

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Despite being a criminal violation in the U.S., the practice continues in a variety of ways. “We believe some of it is being conducted by medical practitioners—physicians, nurses, midwives—and some by female elders within the communities who have the distinction of being what is called a cutter,” said Special Agent Kerry Sparks, who focuses on FGM cases as part of the FBI’s International Human Rights Unit (IHRU).”

A bill was passed in 1996 making the practice forbidden; however, girls are still being forced to undergo this procedure.

In 2005, two Southern California individuals pled guilty to charges related to a plot to allegedly perform FGM on two minors. In 2006, an Ethiopian man living in Georgia was convicted on charges of aggravated battery and cruelty to children for performing FGM on his two-year-old daughter.”

Many women don’t realize what they have endured until they are adults. Most Americans are unaware that this practice is alive and well within this country, as most associate it with only African or Middle-Eastern countries. As more immigrants come to America from those countries, the more occurrences of FGM are likely to happen. The FBI states that it is proactively tracking down leads and investigating claims of the practice of FGM. However, this crime is done in the shadows within American communities, and therefore is not easy to stop. In the video below, it talks about how women are the ones with the power to stop this practice by ending the cycle from being passed onto the next generation of girls.

Read more from the FBI here.

Image courtesy of Clarion Project

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