Laws Against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the United States

Female genital mutilation (FGM) continues to become the subject of conversation regarding types of gender based violence and women’s and girls’ health in the U.S.  The common knowledge now around the U.S. and other parts of the world is that FGM violates the human rights of girls and women.  However, the complex issue of the prevention of FGM in the United States remains a question.  Most of the laws against FGM in the United States were put forth between 1996 and 1999.

US Capitol Image

In the past seventeen years, progress has been made in the U.S. but one of the problems has been lack of knowledge.  The laws can only be effective if the general public, including law enforcement is fully knowledgeable on the practice of FGM.  It is incumbent of activists, advocates and anti-FGM organizations to help educate the general public in the U.S. on the laws and practices of FGM.


According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the U.S. Congress passed several legislative measures relating to FGM in 1996.  The practice of FGM on a minor is defined as a federal criminal offense, unless necessary to protect a young girl’s health. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) compiled data on FGM and engaged in education and outreach to relevant U.S. communities.  The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was directed to provide information to all aliens issued U.S. visas on the health and psychological effects of FGM, as well as on the legal consequences of FGM under criminal or child-protection statutes.  The practice of female genital mutilation was then criminalized in the United States by Congress.


If you are reading this article, and you are unaware, the law in the United States says that “whoever knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia majora or the labia minora of the clitoris of a girl who has not attained the age of 18 years shall be fined under the law or imprisoned for at least five years or both.”

US Law Book Image

The U.S. Government opposes FGM, no matter the type, degree, or severity, and no matter what the motivation for performing it. The U.S. Government understands that FGM may be carried out in accordance with traditional beliefs and as part of adulthood initiation rites. Nevertheless, the U.S. Government considers FGM to be a serious human rights abuse, and a form of gender-based violence and child abuse.

India urged to ban FGM as women break silence on secret ritual

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

Authored by: Emma Batha


(Edited by Tim Pearce – Credits to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit

Indian Woman 

A group of Indian women who were subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) as children are calling on the government to ban the ancient ritual, describing it as child abuse.

FGM, which can cause serious physical and psychological problems, is more commonly linked to African countries which have led international efforts to end the practice.

Little is known about FGM in India where the ritual is carried out in great secrecy by the close-knit Dawoodi Bohra community, a Shia Muslim sect thought to number over 1 million.

The campaign is led by Masooma Ranalvi, a 49-year-old publisher who has launched an online petition in which she describes how she was cut as a seven-year-old in Mumbai.

“The shock and trauma of that day are still with me. All of us feel scarred by it. It is there in our psyche,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from New Delhi.

“What makes me really angry is that this continues today. What happened to me is history, but why are we doing this to young girls even now? Someone has to speak up and we have to stop this.”

Campaigners said the Dawoodi Bohras are the only Muslim community in India to practice FGM. The ritual – called Khatna in India – involves removing part of the clitoris.

Although it is not mentioned in the Koran, the Bohras consider Khatna a religious obligation. Debate on the subject has long been taboo, campaigners say.

“There is a lot of fear in the community that if you do not obey you will be excommunicated,” Ranalvi said.

“It has taken a lot of courage to speak out. Today, a lot of women support us but they are not willing to come out openly because of this fear.”

India is not included on U.N. lists of countries affected by FGM, but Ranalvi estimated up to three quarters of Bohra girls are still cut.

Indian Woman 2


The petition, initiated by 17 Bohra women, calls for a law banning FGM in India. Campaigners plan to present it to the Bohra high priest and the government in the coming weeks.

Government officials were not immediately available to comment. Campaigners say a previous anonymous petition to the Bohra high priest was ignored.

One of the 17 women, Aarefa Johari, said FGM was rooted in the patriarchal belief that a woman’s sexual desire must be curbed.

“Even where the physical injury is no longer severe, the psychological trauma is really long-lasting,” said Johari, co-founder of Sahiyo, a group campaigning to end FGM in the Bohra community.

“We’ve heard from a lot of women who experience and remember the trauma as a form of sexual abuse,” she added.

Worldwide, up to 140 million girls and women have under

The practice among Indian Dawoodi Bohras hit the headlines in November when a court in Australia found two members of the diaspora community guilty of cutting gone FGM, which is carried out in a swathe of Africa and pockets of the Middle East and Asia. two girls. A Bohra religious leader was convicted of being an accessory.

The U.N. General Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution three years ago in favor of the elimination of FGM. Most African countries where FGM is practiced have made it illegal.

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