FGM/C in the Americas - Equality Now
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FGM/C in the Americas

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation, a form of violence and discrimination against girls and women. It is most often carried out on girls between infancy and age 15, though adult women are also subjected.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a human rights violation, a form of violence and discrimination against girls and women. It is most often carried out on girls between infancy and age 15, though adult women are also subjected.

Where are women living with the consequences of FGM/C or at risk in the Americas? 

  • CANADA - There are no official estimates of the number of survivors of FGM/C living in Canada, or women and girls at risk of undergoing FGM/C. The Canadian Border Services Agency has stated that “it is almost certain” that FGM/C is also happening in Canada. The Canadian federal government has estimated that a few thousand girls are at risk of undergoing the procedure since Canada has sizeable populations of diaspora communities from countries where FGM/C is known to be practiced.
  • COLOMBIA Type I FGM/C is known to be practiced by the Embera indigenous people in Colombia, normally on newborn babies. Media reports also indicate that some other indigenous communities like the Nasa community may practice FGM/C.
  • UNITED STATES - FGM/C is widely known to take place among diaspora communities in the United States. Less known are the stories of FGM/C occurring in the local population, including within Christian communities. An estimated 513,000* women and girls nationwide are at risk of undergoing FGM/C. 

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Countries with historical evidence of the practice of FGM/C in the Americas 

In a number of countries, including Peru, Mexico, and Brazil, there is historical evidence of FGM/C having taken place among the native population within the last generation. However, further research is needed to confirm whether or not the practice has died out or if it persists. Further research is needed in these countries to confirm whether FGM/C is still taking place or not. 

  • Peru: The practice of introcision has been reported in the past among the Conibos, a division of Pano Indians from Peru. (OHCHR, 1995). Introcision has been described as a practice where an elderly woman using a bamboo knife “cuts around the hymen from the vaginal entrance and severs the hymen from the labia, at the same time exposing the clitoris. Medicinal herbs are applied.” A documentary film from 2017 (Chua) documents the existence of FGM/C among the Shipibo people in Peru in the form of clitoridectomies (Type I FGM/C). Community members, however, reported that the practice was last known to take place around forty years ago and that it had been abandoned by the community. There is no recent evidence from Peru which documents the continued existence of FGM/C within the country. 
  • Brazil and Mexico: A report from the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights from 1995 reports the practice of “introcision” in Brazil and eastern Mexico (OHCHR, 1995). Introcision is usually defined as the enlarging or tearing of the vaginal opening and in some cases the perineum as well. Clitoridectomies (Type I FGM/C) have been reported in the past in Western Brazil and Mexico until the late 1970s (Rushwan, 2013), though there is insufficient evidence to determine current practice.
  • In addition, there is evidence of white communities in the U.S. and the U.K being subjected to FGM/C, as doctors used to prescribe clitoridectomies (Type I FGM/C) as a cure for hysteria,  mental illness and masturbation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

Are there laws against FGM/C in the Americas? 

The U.S. and Canada have specific laws or legal provisions against FGM/C. 

There are no specific laws or legal provisions against FGM/C in Latin America.

Take action to end FGM in the US

Learn more about the US End FGM/C Network

Learn more about the End FGM Canada Network.

FGM/C is global, but so is the movement to end it.