500K Americans at Risk for Female Genital Mutilation

CDC's 2012 estimate is triple the 1990 figure
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2016 4:31 PM CST
500K Americans at Risk for Female Genital Mutilation
This undated file photo shows a portrait of Sohair el-Batea, who died last year after undergoing a female genital mutilation operation by Dr. Raslan Fadl, in Egypt.   (AP Photo/Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness, File)

If you identify female genital mutilation as a purely African problem, a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may shock: The CDC estimates that 513,000 American women and girls were at risk for "female genital mutilation/cutting or its consequences" in 2012; this is more than triple the 1990 estimate of 168,000. Further, the number of at-risk girls under age 18 more than quadrupled as compared to the 1990 numbers, per the study. But the number of Americans who have actually been subjected to FGM/C—defined by WHO and UNICEF as "all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs whether for cultural, religious, or other non-therapeutic reasons"—is unknown.

Though Congress made FGM/C illegal in 1996, the Guardian reports that "vacation cutting" is a way around this, where parents ship their girls to countries that allow FGM/C in order to have to procedure carried out. As for why the jump in risk, the CDC writes that "the estimated increase was wholly a result of rapid growth in the number of immigrants from FGM/C-practicing countries living in the United States and not from increases in FGM/C prevalence in those countries." As for those countries, the WHO says the practice is concentrated in 29 countries in Africa and Middle East and says more than 125 million girls and women alive today have been cut there. Per the CDC, the most common countries of origin for Americans at risk of FGM/C were Egypt (20%), Ethiopia (18%), and Somalia (12%). (ISIS reportedly demands FGM/C.)

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