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Female Genital Mutilation Happens Here in the States and the Government Doesn’t Try to Stop It

January 25, 2010
The approximate prevalence of Female Genital M...
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Female Genital Mutilation is a long-running subject on my blog, and I am bringing it up again today because I have found out that the groups supposedly set up to protect girls are not working.  Salon has posted an article about this in its Violence Against Women section ( a long time in coming as I have watched Salon evolve from the Old White Man’s Club series of editors to a more female represented group), but it’s still a subject that lacks the cache of celebrity outreach to bring this issue to the forefront.  Physicians are required to report sexual abuse of  children, physical abuse, but only one case of FGM has been prosecuted in NY, and we know that children living there, a large percentage of immigrants mutilate their little girls.

What’s incredibly disturbing is the US government’s lack of response to this human rights violation.  The US government has no national task force to address the issue, and it’s office of Women’s Health is routinely considered a joke.  Is it because poor immigrant children are subjected to this that the government has failed to take action?  Is it because it’s a women’s rights issue, and Obama is disappointingly lacking in his address of women’s rights?  Some of it may just be a lack of money directed in the right areas, but when that happens at a governmental level?  Yeah, the US government is allowing little girls to be brutalized:

Consider New York, whose metropolitan area is considered to have the highest number of women and girls potentially affected by cutting. In the past, New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services has worked with Sauti Yetu Center for African Women in the Bronx to provide community forums and awareness trainings for ACS staff — but no more. In fact, an ACS spokesperson said that “the issue of FGM has rarely if ever come across our work in New York City.” Today, search for “female genital” at, and you get a bunch of stuff about STDs. New York state law bans FGM of minors, criminalizing both the person who performs the procedure as well as the parent or guardian who OKs it. The law also requires the state Office of Children and Family Services to establish “education, preventive and outreach” activities in communities where FGM is traditionally practiced. According to reports, however, not much of that has happened in a decade; officials confirmed that there is no particular program in place today. Versions of a bill that would require the state to report to the governor annually on its efforts to address FGM has passed the state assembly repeatedly since 1995 but has died a thousand deaths in the Senate. (Re-re-reintroduced in January 2009 by Assemblywoman Barbara Clark of Queens, the bill is currently cooling its heels in the Senate’s Health subcommittee.) Likewise, according to Bien-Aime and others, little is happening at the federal level, where similar laws both criminalize the act and require outreach. (The Office of Women’s Health did not return repeated calls and emails.)

Why didn’t the Office of Women’s Health call back?  Why can’t a bill be introduced anywhere but on the doomed health care bill?  It’s time to contact Mr. Bloomberg.  But it’s also time to take women’s rights seriously.  If women and girls don’t have equal rights, no one will.  These are our future generations we are talking about.

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