Opinion: Female Genital Mutilation Is More Common Than You Think – Inside Sources

Chances are, you’ve never heard of “FGM,” also known as female genital mutilation. For Americans, FGM doesn’t hit particularly close to home. But that doesn’t mean the problem is solved.

In fact, female genital mutilation is one of the most serious problems facing girls and women in 2022. More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to FGM — and rates are increasing, not decreasing. This decade, tens of millions more girls are expected to be “cut” in countries where FGM is routinely practiced.

While the worst offenders are in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, FGM also exists in Asia and Latin America. Even in Europe and North America, female genital mutilation is commonly practiced among migrant populations. That’s right: North America. 

Since 1990, the estimated number of U.S. girls and women who have undergone or remain at risk of the practice has more than tripled, due to rapid immigration growth. These girls and women are heavily concentrated in California, New York and Minnesota.

How many are at risk? Hundreds of thousands of girls and women in the United States. The practice is so prevalent that there are dozens of American advocacy organizations fighting to end it.

recently interviewed Hayat Traspas, who was born in Kenya. Her story is heartbreaking: She is the first woman in her family to not suffer from FGM. All of the other women in her family have been cut, inspiring Hayat to form an advocacy group of her own — Save a Girl, Save a Generation — and tackle an issue that has personally affected her. While fortunately indirect in her case, the effect of female genital mutilation is still devastating to everyone close to it.

Sparing the details (which are disgusting in every sense of the word), brave people like Hayat should remind the rest of us that women have a long, long way to go around the world — even in the West. We have a long way to go before we are truly free and equal to men, especially in less-developed parts of the world. The COVID-19 pandemic, which adversely affected women even more than men, has only made gender-based violence more prevalent.

Liberty and freedom are foreign concepts when health and safety are not guaranteed. Prosperity is unattainable when the most vulnerable parts of the female body are compromised, leaving psychological trauma as well.

It’s time to act. However, before we can solve the problem together, people in America and other Western countries need to recognize its existence in the first place. Public awareness is the first step, and it is an integral one. In February, we celebrated the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, designated by the United Nations to educate people about female genital mutilation.

Awareness leads to education and eventually action, especially when global think tanks and non-governmental organizations are involved. Since 2008, the United Nations and UNICEF have led the largest global program to accelerate the elimination of female genital mutilation. Because of that partnership, more than 361,000 girls have been prevented from undergoing FGM. More than 5 million girls and women have received prevention, protection and care services related to female genital mutilation. Meanwhile, tens of millions of people have made public declarations to abandon the practice.

People in the West must continue to support the think tanks and NGOs that are fighting to eradicate a truly horrible practice — one that has gone on for more than 1,000 years. Individual donations make a difference. Social media activism helps. It all does, for the sake of human dignity.

Progress is being made, but we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. The victims of FGM cannot afford it — not when the pandemic has made FGM more common, not when millions of girls may become victims this year. Enough is enough.

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