Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting
(FGM/C) in North America & Europe
Female Genital Mutilation is an invasive procedure that is usually performed on girls before puberty. It is
occasionally performed within Aboriginal, Christian and Muslim families who have emigrated
to North America or Europe from some predominately Muslim countries where it is practiced as a social
tradition. It is also done at birth to some "inter-sex" infants
in North America an Europe for what are
seen by some as justified for medical or psychological reasons.
Female Genital Mutilation among immigrants:
This operation is occasionally performed on children of immigrants from some predominately Muslim
countries of the Middle East, Africa, Indonesia and other Muslim
countries in Asia. Although it is often viewed as a Muslim practice, it is practiced by people of all religions in those counries where it is common. It is seen by some of its supporters as a religious duty, social
custom, and/or a necessary operation for health reasons. It is criticized by those in
opposition as a cruel mutilation of a young girl in order to reduce her sexual response
In the West, the procedure is outlawed in
"Australia (six states), Burkina Faso, Canada, Central African Republic,
Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea, New Zealand, Nigeria (3 states),
Norway, Senegal, Sweden, Tanzania, Togo, the United Kingdom, and the United
Legislation against FGM can be counter-productive in some cases. It might force the
practice deeply underground. Women may not seek medical care later in life because their
parents might be charged with having committed a crime. The operation can be life threatening if performed by untrained
individuals; if the operation is botched, the parents may be reluctant to take the child
to a hospital out of fear of being criminally charged with child abuse. On the other hand,
it does indicate that the government has taken a stand against FGM. This, and potential
penalties, may well cause some parents to decide against having their daughter(s)
|US: After 20 years of personal effort, Representative Patricia
Schroeder (D-CO) saw a US federal bill, "Federal Prohibition of Female Genital
Mutilation Act of 1995" passed in 1996-SEP. The bill had been introduced
by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada). 3 The law provides for prison sentences of up to 5 years for
anyone who "circumcises, excises, or infibulates the whole or any part of the
labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of
The law also requires US representatives to the World Bank and similar financial institutions to oppose loans to countries where FGM is prevalent and in which there are no
anti-FGM educational programs. The law took effect on 1997-MAR-30. The first
charges under the law were made in late 2003 when a California couple was
arrested in a FBI sting operation allegedly after having agreed to perform a FGM
procedure on two fictitious girls. 5
FGM has also been
criminalized at the state level in California, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and
Tennessee, and some other states. At least one FGM assistance, education and support group is operating in the
U.S. among immigrants from countries that practice FGM. 1
Specialists in Denver, CO, reported in 1998 that at least 6,000 immigrants have
settled in their area from African countries which widely practice FGM.
Dr. Terry Dunn, director of a womens clinic in that city commented:
"I know of
one patient where it was clear it was performed in this country."
cases are seen each year at the clinic.
Canada: Section 273.3 of the Canadian Criminal Code protects children who are ordinarily
resident in Canada, (as citizens or landed migrants) from being taken to another country
and subjected to FGM. In the US and Canada, a very small percentage of immigrants who wish
to continue the practice often find it impossible to find a local doctor who will cooperate. The
operation may then be done illegally in the home by poorly trained persons, under less
than sterile conditions.
The federal government gives a "Discover Canada" guide to persons seeking citizenship in the country to help them write the citizenship examination. It was written in 2011 and contains a warning that certain "barbaric cultural practices" such as honor killing and female genital mutilation are crimes in Canada. The Immigration Minister, John McCallum (Liberal) announced early in 2016 that the guide was to be rewritten. In the current draft version of 2017-JUL, the references to "barbaric cultural practices" has been deleted. It also discusses the evolution of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual persons (LGBT) during the previous decade.
The deletion of the "barbaric cultural practices" references has triggered objections. The 2017-JUL-25 edition of the Toronto Star contains a letter to the editor from Lisa Volkov of Toronto who said in part:
"... it is absolutely essential for the protection of women and girls in this country that it be made clear in the new guide ... that female genital mutilation is considered criminal and unacceptable in Canada."
In the same edition, Sandy Forester of Bolton ON wrote:
"Please, oh please, leave these two items in the guide book, as it's so important that our new Canadians better understand the right of citizenship."
France: On 1999-FEB-3, Hawa Greou went on trial in France on charges of "voluntarily
bodily injury causing mutilation or permanent disability." She is alleged to
having mutilated the genitals of about 50 young girls. Also charged
were 27 parents of the victims. The case was triggered by a complaint by a woman of Malian
origin, Mariatou Koita. Both she and her sister had allegedly been mutilated by
Greou. Jean Chavais, the defendant's lawyer, admits that the mutilations were carried out. He said :
"If the trial can help bring about an end to this custom, then it will be useful.
But punishment is not as effective as education and prevention...This is an African custom
that has existed for centuries. It takes a long time to change habits."
Greou, known among the Malian community in Paris as "Mama Greou" had received a
one year suspended sentence in 1994 for excising two girls. This time, she was given an 8
year jail sentence. Parents received sentences ranging from a 3 year suspended sentence to
2 years in prison.
|Norway: The Daily Mail, a UK newspaper, reports that:|
"In Norway, where this brutal act is also prevalent, a young Somali
woman was recently beaten, almost to death, for talking to TV
documentary programme-makers." 6
|Europe: According to a 1977 joint statement by
the WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA, 500,000 females in the European
Union have either been mutilated or are at risk for mutilation.
Sacks & Kolken is law firm that has won a number of FGM-related asylum
cases. Their website is at: http://www.sackskolken.com/
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- M. Ramsey, "Forward USA/Ethiopia: Assistance, education and support for
women and girls affected by female genital mutilation." This group has
disappeared from the Internet and may no longer exist. For support questions
in the U.S. you might try contacting:
- Associated Press article, 1998-FEB-16, quoted in the Feminist Majority
Foundation's web site at:
- Text of the "Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of
1995" is online at:
- "Legislation on Female Genital Mutilation in the United States,"
Center for Reproductive Rights, at:
http://www.reproductiverights.org/ This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from:
- Megan Costello, "Two in U.S. Accused of Genital Mutilation,"
Womensenews, 2004-FEB-19, at:
- Jo-Ann Goodwin & David Jones, "How the unspeakable practice of female
circumcision is destroying young women's lives in 21st century Britain," Daily
Mail, 2007-JAN-03, at:
- "FGM Joint Statement, WHO, UNICEF and UNFPA, (1997, Page 4)
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Copyright © 1998 to 2017 by Ontario Consultants on
Originally published: 1998-MAR-16
Last updated on 2017-JUL-25
Author: Bruce A Robinson