As the months whisk away toward the summer, girls who are already familiar with female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) become worried. They ask themselves, “Will this be the summer when I will be taken to the mutilator?”
Summer months are the most popular months when girls are at the highest risk of being cut. It is convenient for the parents or guardians to plan trips to their countries of origin; the girls are out of school during the summer months. It is a long enough period for them to physically heal prior to returning to school.
While their western counterparts look forward to a long, relaxing and enjoyable summer, girls at risk of experiencing FGM/C only have fear, brutal cutting and possibly death to which to look forward. According to some statistics, more than 292,000 girls around the world could be genitally cut this year. Although the summer months are the greatest risks for the girls, in many other countries, high season began this month, February. In some West African countries, like Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where the rainy season can become disruptive for outdoor activities, the dry season months are the most prevalent for the practice. Since the rainy season begins in June, the summer months would not be the most popular time to practice FGM/C in such climates. Months from December through May are the most popular months for the Sande and Bondi Society Bushes. The Sande and Bondi Societies are the core societies that practice FGM/C in some West African countries.
Let’s not be fooled that vacation cutting can only be carried out during the summer months. Parents can still plan holiday trips during the Christmas and New Year break, if they are that determined and desperate to take their girls overseas for the purpose of performing FGM/C. Keep in mind that the deceptive methods by which some perpetrators of FGM/C use to lure the girls are clever and persuasive. Girls are dressed up and told that they are being taken to a birthday party, only to arrive and discover that it is a different type of party. Some of them are told that they are going to attend a relative’s wedding in their parents’ country of origin, or they are going to visit their grandparents, whom they have never met, since the girls were born in the United States or in another western country.
If you are reading this article and are not familiar with what happens to the girls, please know the importance of sharing this story with your friends, neighbors and others in your community. The practice of FGM/C will only end if everyone knows about it, and knows that it is not something that is only practiced in remote villages in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Know that it exists right here in the United States. It could be done right in your own neighborhood and you would not have any idea, if you were not informed. If you suspect that a girl is at risk of FGM/C, please call one of the phone numbers provided at the bottom of this newsletter or contact your local child abuse hotline. The practice of FGM/C has been a federal crime since 1996 and it is banned in more than 23 states in the United States.
It is important for teachers, school nurses, counselors, neighborhood parents and everyone involved with children to become informed about the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting. The little girls must be protected, and just like “it takes a village to raise a child”, it also “takes a neighborhood to protect a girl from female genital mutilation/cutting”. Let’s protect our girls – they are the future women of the world.
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