Female Genital Mutilation
What is it?
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is a term used to describe traditional practices that involve the complete or partial removal of the external female genitalia. The procedure has no health benefits for women and girls, and the United Nations and the World Health Organization recognize female genital mutilation as a human rights violation.
What’s the impact?
FGM/C can cause severe health complications, including damage to organs and problems during urination, menstruation, and childbirth. An estimated 200 million women and girls alive today have been subjected to FGM/C, and millions of girls are still at risk every year. FGM/C is a growing concern in the United States; in fact, more than half a million women and girls in the nation are at risk of undergoing or have undergone FGM/C in the U.S. or abroad, including 169,000 under the age of 18, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control.
What protections are available?
Women and girls facing FGM/C may be eligible for asylum as a result of Fauziya Kassindja’s precedent-setting case. At the age of 17, Fauziya fled Togo in fear of female genital mutilation and forced marriage. She sought asylum in the United States. Instead of finding protection, she spent more than 17 months in detention.
A then-law student at American University, Layli Miller-Muro, helped bring her case to the highest immigration court in the nation, and Fauziya was granted asylum in 1996 by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals. The decision set national precedent and established gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum. Layli went on to found Tahirih Justice Center to protect women and girls fleeing violence.
FGM/C is now a federal crime in the United States and in many other places around the world, and Tahirih continues to achieve greater protection for potential FGM/C victims and survivors.