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FGM in the US: Secretive Practice Exposed

fgm imageDetroit, MI, April 26, 2017– On April 12, 2017 a Detroit physician, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was charged with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) under a Federal law passed in 1996 which makes this practice illegal in the United States. This is the first publicized case of its kind in the United States and will inevitably spark much conversation and controversy. FGM is a cultural practice where some or all of a female’s external genital organs are removed for non-medical reasons.

It is important to dispel the belief that FGM is related only to a certain religion or practiced in only certain regions of the world. According to a 2016 UNICEF report, while the exact number of girls and women worldwide who have undergone FGM remains unknown, at least 200 million girls and women in countries in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and perhaps South America, have been subjected to this practice.

But why is this an American issue? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) more than 500,000 girls and women in the United States have either undergone FGM or are in danger of being subjected to this torture.

For some communities in the diaspora it will serve as a reminder of the perpetual struggle between cultural preservation and assimilation.  Proponents of FGM say that one intention behind this practice is to repress sexual desires which prevents promiscuity. They see it as, essentially, a practice that provides a cultural safeguard for girls.  Issues of sexual protection are deeply entrenched in a belief system directly associated with a broader and much revered premise of honor. To refuse an act like FGM is to stray from cultural norms and expectations, and can often result in equally harmful consequences. The power of this belief system is transcendent, far reaching, and often places great risk and culpability on girls and women.


The Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence unequivocally believes that FGM is a form of violence and discrimination against girls and women. Other than the many physical health implications such as extreme pain, chronic infections, complications during childbirth, and even death, there is extensive psychological trauma inflicted upon survivors of FGM.  We also acknowledge the abuses of an overarching system of subjugation and control that is denying girls and women autonomy over their bodies and sexuality, through this harmful cultural practice.

“There is no honor in harmful cultural practices such as FGM. No one wants a part of their body to be mutilated in the name of a cultural belief, what a lifelong burden of pain to bear” said Merkeb Yohannes a program manager at the Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. “The onus falls on all of us not to trivialize this issue and to start healthy conversations about how we can address the root causes of this culturally based action that targets the well-being of girls and women.”

The Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence is committed to ending domestic and sexual violence. We support laws enacted to protect girls from the torture of FGM.  Additionally, the Coalition believes that the issue of FGM should be addressed through increased education in our communities, better cultural awareness of the underlying causes, and continued support to survivors and their families.