USA: Some Immigrants Face Preassure To Perform Female Genital Mutilation, Advocates Say

Female genital mutilation is illegal in the U.S., but some African and Muslim immigrants face cultural and religious pressure from their communities to perform the procedure, CNN reports. Based on anecdotal information, some advocacy groups say immigrants are sending girls abroad for FGM.

The World Health Organization defines female genital cutting as altering or injuring the female genital organs for nonmedical purposes. In parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, certain populations consider FGM an important cultural ritual, sometimes performed in infancy and sometimes during adolescence.

There are no national surveys documenting immigrants' attitudes toward FGM or whether they are sending their daughters overseas for procedures. Experts say that conducting such studies would be extremely difficult because most families refuse to discuss the topic. An analysis of 2000 Census data by the African Women's Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital estimated that 228,000 U.S. women have experienced or are at risk for FGM.

To address the issue, lawmakers and advocacy groups are proposing legislation and making policy recommendations, CNN reports. Last month, Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) introduced a bill (HR 5137) that would make it a crime to send a girl abroad to undergo FGM.

In addition, a recently released policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that physicians who serve immigrant populations should consider a "prick" or "nick" to "satisfy cultural requirements" for families that might be considering more severe procedures (Chen, CNN, 5/21). Crowley has criticized the policy statement saying that the prick and nick procedure "create[s] confusion" about whether FGM is acceptable in any form. Current U.S. law criminalizes any nonmedical genital procedure performed on girls ( Women's Health Policy Report, 5/7).

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SOURCE: Medical News Today

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DATE: 10/06/2010

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