Female genital mutilation in the United States occurs across the country. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is defined as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."
Historically, communities all around the world have practiced FGM for centuries, dating back to the time of pharaohs. Today, FGM is concentrated in 27 African countries, Yemen and Iraqi Kurdistan, but it is also found elsewhere in Asia, the Middle East, and among immigrant communities around the world. FGM has been outlawed or restricted in most of the countries in which it occurs, but the laws are poorly enforced.
The current prevalence of FGM in the US is uncertain. 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. Released in early 2016, the report showed that 513,000 girls and women were either affected - or at risk of undergoing FGM in the U.S.
According to 1997 estimates by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at that time, over 168,000 girls and women in the U.S. had either been, or were at risk of being, subjected to FGM. In 2000, the African Women’s Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital put the number at 227,887. The Population Reference Bureau estimated that in 2011 there were up to 507,000 females who had undergone FGM or were at risk of it.
Of these women and girls, 55% were of Egyptian, Ethiopian, or Somalian origin. The practice is concentrated in eight states: California, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
FGM was practiced in the U.S. as well as some of the other Western countries as a medical procedure in form of clitoridectomy and female circumcision in the 1800s and all the way into late 1970s, as means to "cure" female masturbation, hysteria, nymphomania and excess sexual desire, lesbianism, lack of female orgasm during traditional intercourse, and a number of other conditions considered abnormal or immoral at the time. It was covered by the Blue Cross health insurance until 1977.
Performing FGM on anyone under the age of 18 became illegal in the U.S. in 1997 with the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act. As of 2015, 24 US states have specific laws against FGM. States that do not have such laws may use other general statutes, such as assault, battery or child abuse. Supported by Equality Now, the Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act was passed in January 2013, and prohibits knowingly transporting a girl out of the U.S. for the purpose of undergoing FGM.
The first conviction of FGM in the US occurred in 2006. Khalid Adem, an Ethiopian American, was both the first person prosecuted and first person convicted for FGM in the United States. The charge stemmed from the fact that he had personally excised his 2-year-old daughter's clitoris with a pair of scissors. As at that time there was no specific FGM law in Georgia, the US state in which the incident took place, Adem was found guilty of aggravated battery and cruelty to children.
Fauziya Kasinga, a 19-year-old member of the Tchamba-Kunsuntu tribe of Togo, was granted asylum in 1996 after leaving an arranged marriage to escape FGM; this set a precedent in US immigration law because it was the first time FGM was accepted as a form of persecution.