We have come to understand that effective approaches to ending FGM must be holistic and include not only getting appropriate laws and policies in place, but also measures focused on child protection, prevention, provision of services to affected women and girls at risk, partnerships and sharing of information and strategies between different organizations and, when necessary, prosecutions.
- Shelby Quast, Senior Policy Adviser, Equality Now
Part of the difficulty in recognizing and addressing the problem in the US is the lack of awareness and up-to-date research/statistics on the prevalence of FGM…In order to improve efforts to protect these little girls, we must know the facts about FGM in the US.
-Jaha Dukureh, FGM survivor and activist, Safe Hands for Girls
For more than 20 years, Equality Now has been working with partners across Africa and around the world to end female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM is internationally-recognized as a human rights violation, torture and an extreme form of violence against women and girls. According to UNICEF’s 2013 report, if current trends continue, up to 30 million girls are at risk over the coming decade.
In the United States, though it is illegal to perform FGM or to knowingly transport a girl out of the country to inflict FGM upon her, it’s been estimated* that 168,000 American girls and women have either been – or are at risk of being – subjected to FGM. Equality Now worked to get FGM recognized as a form of gender-based persecution in the U.S. in 1996 and helped to strengthen the federal anti-FGM law in 2013. In early 2014, Equality Now campaigned with survivor activist Jaha Dukureh – who started a change.org petition that received more than 220,000 signatures, – Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and The Guardian to get the Obama Administration to conduct a new prevalence study into the current scope of FGM in the U.S. as the first step towards its elimination.
Victory! In July, Cathy Russell, the U.S. ambassador for global women's issues, announced that the Department of Health and Human Services would conduct the requested study, and the administration stated that it would create a preliminary working group on FGM. Equality Now and our partners will continue to hold the U.S. Administration accountable to its commitments to end this human rights violation.
Building on the momentum to end FGM in Africa, the U.S. and the UK, it is imperative that we put girls and women center stage in the post 2015 framework and accelerate an end to FGM and all harmful practices affecting women and girls, globally.
To learn more about FGM, its history in the United States and laws against it, read our factsheet.
To learn more about Equality Now’s work to end FGM visit: www.equalitynow.org/fgm
Selected press clips:
U.S. Announces Massive Study on Female Genital Mutilation (Cosmopolitan)
US to conduct major study into female genital mutilation (The Guardian)
Will the US Truly Lead & End FGM? (Women in the World)
FGM survivors: 'It happens on US soil, but it happens in secret' (The Guardian)
American survivor of female genital mutilation calls on US to take action (The Guardian)
Horrific Taboo: Female Circumcision on the Rise in U.S. (NBC News)
Why Aren’t More People Talking About Female Genital Mutilation in the U.S.? (Cosmopolitan)
*1997 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates