Female Genital Mutilation Triples in United States
The nonpartisan GAO reports to Congress that over half a million women and girls in the United States are now either victims or at risk of this barbaric practice.
The General Accounting Office (GAO) is one of the few allegedly nonpartisan outlets that is generally thought really to be reasonably fair and nonpartisan. Their new report on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) should be taken seriously as an honest investigation of the scope of the problem.
What they find is that cases have tripled since the last time they looked into it. This is due not to an increase of the practice among Americans, they say, but to increased immigration from Muslim nations in Africa.
They also find that, though the practice is a crime in the United States, there have been almost no prosecutions for it. Likewise, the State Department has largely failed to make preventing FGM a priority in its overseas operations.
The Washington Free Beacon reports that this failure compares very badly to similar State Department efforts to spread condoms and birth control.
“U.S. assistance efforts to address FGM/C are limited,” according to the GAO report. “The Department of State (State) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) each had one active standalone project in 2014, and the agencies also undertook some FGM/C-related efforts as components of projects with broader assistance goals.”
The State Department’s only stand-alone effort specifically targeting female genital mutilation is in Guinea, and has only received $1.5 million over 2 years. The amount is less thanwhat Daniel Resnic received from taxpayers for his so-called origami condoms.
In contrast, the U.S. Agency for International Development spent $85.6 million on contraception for developing countries in 2014 alone.
…the government has also not provided funding to a United Nations program dedicated to combating the practice.
“The U.S. government provides funding to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF but, to date, has not contributed funds to the UN agencies’ Joint Program on FGM/C…. there are currently no specific legal restrictions that would prohibit U.S. funding provided to UNFPA from being available for the Joint Program on FGM/C,” the GAO said.
FGM is a practice strongly associated with Islam within Africa, although it is also widely practiced in Islamic nations in southeast Asia. Other nations outside of those regions, though Muslim, do not show the same rates of mutilation of women. In Muslim nations that do widely practice FGM the structure of sharia reinforces the practice, as it fits nicely into the religious codes regulating women’s behavior. Like the requirements to veil and sequester themselves in female areas of the home, FGM promotes an ideal of female sexual “purity” that is at the core of Islamic ethics for women.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who suffered FGM as a girl in Africa, has called for annual visual inspections of girls considered “at risk” by a female medical provider. Pointing out that the perpetrators of FGM are often close relatives, she argues that it is unreasonable to expect girls to report such close family and bear the guilt of sending them to prison. “A detection mechanism like this would be the biggest deterrent because when the family says ‘Our little girl Fatima or Samira is now five or six, and shouldn’t we have her done?’ they will know that they can’t because in September every year, just as the school holidays end, she will be checked. You then need one or two prosecutions to set an example.”
The GAO report calls for increased immigration as a solution, as women and girls who are at risk of FGM are entitled to special protections under US law. As the practice is actively illegal in the United States, there is at least a chance that they might be protected by being moved here. However, as Hirsi Ali’s comments anticipated, there are actually very minimal protections in place even in the United States itself. The GAO report found almost no prosecutions related to FGM, and there is no reason to think that there will be more in the future. Absent a detection mechanism, the state remains unaware that the crime has been carried out. Prosecution is impossible if there is no evidence that a crime has occurred.
For that reason, the GAO’s recommendations do not go far enough. Hirsi Ali is correct. At risk populations within the United States should be subject to annual inspections in order to protect them from their families. It is the only way to protect these girls and end the practice at least in America.