More than half a million women and girls in the United States are either victims of female genital mutilation or are at risk of being subjected to it, last estimations show. Sudan, Somalia and Sierra Leone are often associated with this ritual, but it occurs in other countries too.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) promised to stop this and plans to combat the crime together with Homeland Security Investigations, the FBI’s International Human Rights Unit and the Department of Justice’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number has increased threefold since 1990, Newsweek reports. The agencies are trying to identify girls and women at risk and investigate those who perpetrate the procedure, but it is not that easy to stop the ritual.
“Unfortunately, parents or other family members are often involved, although many female family members may be victims themselves,” ICE stated.
Advocates who fight to stop the practice suspect that the ritual of mutilating happens at a high rate among large immigrant populations in states such as New York, Minnesota and California, but mutilating has been noticed in other states too.
“The practice also occurs in Washington, D.C., Georgia, Massachusetts and Virginia, which also have large immigrant populations. When someone emigrates to the U.S., sometimes they’re just clinging to cultural traditions as a way of keeping connected to their home country,” says Jessica Neuwirth, director of women rights organization Donor Direct Action.
Jumala Nagarwla, a 44-year old emergency room physician in Michigan has been charged with mutilating the genitals of two girls from Minnesota. She is the only person in the U.S. that has been charged under a federal law criminalizing the practice.