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Did You Know About ‘Vacation Cutting’ and its Relation to FGM?

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a traditional purity practice common in countries like Africa and South Asia. In recent years, there have been considerable actions taken to criminalize and bring an end to the practice, as it both physically and mentally scars its victims. Yet, in acknowledging the actions being taken to end the practice of FGM, it should also be acknowledged that many who support the practice are finding new ways to continue inflicting such horrible actions upon their young daughters.

The practice of FGM has affected young girls in the United States at higher rates as parents opt for their daughters to undergo a treatment known as “vacation cutting.” This treatment entails young victims being sent away, presumably to visit relatives in a parent’s country of origin, where they will then undergo FGM. As noted in an NPR report, the practice of vacation cutting usually happens “during school breaks so that girls have enough time to heal before returning to the United States when classes resume.”

FGM has been illegal in the United States since 1996, but vacation cutting has only been illegal in the United States since 2013. This, however, has not deterred individuals from consciously attempting to have the procedure performed on their daughters both in the States and abroad. In April 2017, two doctors from Livonia, Michigan were arrested for performing the illegal procedure on two seven-year-old girls. This was marked as “the first federal genital mutilation case in the US.” This, however, is only one incident out of a plethora of FGM procedures being secretly and unlawfully performed in the United States and in many countries abroad, despite criminal legislation enacted against the practice.

Law enforcement agencies have been working toward informing and gaining the trust of immigrant communities from countries in which FGM is prevalent in order to make them aware of the harm that the procedure causes to those who undergo it. Initiatives like Operation Limelight, which works out of New York City’s JFK airport, is one example of efforts made to monitor travel between the United States and countries in which FGM is known to be performed. Operation Limelight works to prevent instances in which young women and girls are being sent abroad, presumably to undergo vacation cutting.

Unfortunately, in today’s political and social climate, law enforcement has faced difficulties in gaining enough trust from these FGM-prevalent communities. Due to many individuals’ cultural and religious beliefs, it has also proven difficult to convince these individuals of the harms and inhumane nature of FGM. This, however, has not halted activists and organizations from supporting victims by speaking out against FGM as a violation of human rights. Perhaps with the continued spread of information about the practice, as well as the support provided to those who have suffered through it, FGM will eventually cease to be an issue plaguing young girls around the world.

Featured Image by Wajahat Mahmood on Flicker

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