International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

As today is the UN’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, HRI staff members think of the clients we have served over the years who have been victims of Female Genital Mutilation. Female Genital Mutilation “comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.”

One of HRI’s former clients, Leyla, is a 40-year old woman originally from Sudan. As a young girl, she was forced to undergo Type 4 female genital mutilation (FGM). This is one of the most extreme forms of FGM. She was only 9 years old.

Years later, after marrying her husband, Leyla had two sons and two daughters. Childbirth was a very painful experience for her and resulted in many infections and hospitalizations. Because of the immense pain that Leyla experienced due to her FGM, she always imagined that her husband would be opposed to the practice for their daughters. Unfortunately, she was horrified to find out that this was not the case. One day, while on a family trip back to Sudan, Leyla’s husband asked when it would be best to have their daughters circumcised.

Leyla and her family lived in the United Arab Emirates at the time. During a family vacation to the U.S., Leyla, her husband, and their four children visited Niagara Falls and during the trip, Leyla’s husband once again insisted that failing to circumcise their daughters would lead to promiscuity.

Leyla refused to return to the U.A.E. with her husband at the end of the family vacation, fearing that he would surely force their daughters to be circumcised. A year later, Leyla’s husband returned to the U.S. with a new wife and attempted to take their children so that the girls could be circumcised in Sudan. It was only after threatening to call the police that Leyla’s husband left.

Leyla and her children have now received their green cards. Thanks to our many supporters, DASH Network, and our pro bono attorneys, Leyla and her children have a home, are safe, and are thriving here in the U.S.

While FGM is illegal in the U.S., more and more women who are victims of FGM are emigrating to the U.S. where they have to deal with the lasting repercussions of their genital cutting and doctors, friends, and lovers who may know very little about this practice.

Please take today to learn more about the issues surrounding FGM for millions of women around the world, and hopefully, someday we together will be able to finally #EndFGM.

For more resources on FGM, please see the links below:

http://www.un.org/en/events/femalegenitalmutilationday/

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/06/us/genital-cutting-cases-seen-more-as-immigration-rises.html?_r=0

http://www.endfgm.eu/female-genital-mutilation/what-is-fgm/