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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Female circumcision affects girls in U.S., too: parents send daughters overseas for genital cutting

May 26, 2010
By Rosemary Black - NY Daily News

Female circumcision isn’t only endured by young women who live in other parts of the globe.

Though illegal in the U.S., an estimated 228,000 women either have undergone genital cutting or are at risk of it, according to 2000 Census data that was gathered by the African Women’s Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Not uncommon in some areas of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, female genital cutting still is traditional in some Muslim and African immigrant families in the States. Though it’s rare for a case to be documented here, cutting typically occurs overseas as families send their daughters back to their native country for the procedure. It’s likely that cutting is moving underground here and abroad, according to doctors and advocacy groups.

Some 140 million women and children around the globe have been affected by the practice, according to the World Health Organization. The WHO defines it as a process that injures or alters a female’s genital organs for no medical purpose.

When Somali immigrant Fatima Mohamed was faced with the question of whether to have her daughter circumcised, the answer was easy. She’d gone through the horrible experience herself growing up in Africa, and strongly opposed putting her 11-year-old through it.

Yet not all families in her African community think the same way, since it’s a cultural ritual important to a woman’s identity, Mohamed told CNN. Those who want to keep to the traditional ways don’t understand why women like Mohamed aren’t having their daughters circumcised.

“They say they don’t want to hear it,” she told CNN. “Some think I’m disrespecting my own culture. Some will say, ‘You act like an American now. You forgot about who you are.’ ”

Mohamed is hoping to eliminate the practice by reaching out to other Somali women in her community. Last year, spearheading a group called the East African Community Outreach, she helped educate women about genital cutting.

“I would never do it to my daughter,” she told CNN. “I don’t want it. This has nothing to do with religion or culture. I believe nobody should control my child.”