5 things to know about female genital mutilation in the US

Jumana Nagarwala, MD, an emergency medical physician at Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System, was charged with mutilating the genitals of two 7-year-old girls from Minneapolis, according to a Twin Cities Pioneer Press report.

The case is believed to be the first such case prosecuted under a 1995 law criminalizing the procedure.

"This is much more common than people think," said Shelby Quast, director in the office of the Americas for Equality Now, an international organization that focuses on ending the practice of female genital mutilation worldwide, according to the report. "Female genital mutilation is happening here in the U.S. It is child abuse and we need to stop it."

Here are five things to know about genital mutilation in the U.S.

1. Genital mutilation is a cultural practice designed to curb female sexuality.

2. More than 500,000 females under the age of 18 years are at risk for genital mutilation, according to a 2012 CDC study cited by the Pioneer Press.

3. In addition to the 1995 rule, Former President Barack Obama signed legislation in 2013 making it illegal to transport a girl outside of the U.S. for the purpose of genital mutilation, according to the report. Conviction under these laws include fines or a maximum 5-year prison term, or both, if the victim is under the age 18.

4. In a paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics last year, Two American OB-GYNs — Kavita Shah Arora, MD, and Allan J. Jacobs, MD — called for a compromise solution to the practice, arguing that to protect children from the serious harm of more extreme procedures, medical professionals should conduct procedures that generally do not carry long-term medical risks for the purpose of harm reduction.

The paper cited an anecdote from 1996 when physicians at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle offered its Somali patient population an alternative "female circumcision" procedure. The physicians thought if they didn't perform the procedure, the girls of this patient population would have likely been taken to Somalia and subjected to barbarous genital mutilation, consisting of the excision of the clitoris, labia minora and majora and the stitching closed of most of the vagina.

5. Another 2016 article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics issued a response to the call for a compromise solution. The article argued the practice of female mutilation has always been tied to patriarchal control of the female population and is not the equivalent of male circumcision.

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