NEW YORK —
Contrary to popular perception, female genital mutilation, or FGM, is relatively widespread in the United States as well. Indeed, according to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 women and girls have either undergone, or are at risk of undergoing the procedure. Most, but not all, are immigrants to the U.S.
In November, a federal judge declared a 1996 federal law banning FGM unconstitutional.
Here is a transcript of the interview.
There is a lasting impact on women when they are physically harmed to control their sexuality, but also the messaging (is) that their sexuality is not something to be celebrated, and that there ne to be some control over their own bodies.
Khan: In come cases, the entire outer and inner lips of the vagina are cut and the clitoris is also removed. And sometimes the entire outer lips of the vagina are sewn up to leave only a small hole for urination and menstruation. In some cultures, that hole is measured by the size of a corn kernel. You can imagine that sex after that type of procedure is done is extremely painful.
Khan: People want to control women and have them not be able to have sex except with their husbands. And also, controlling their experience during sex can also limit their desire for having extramarital relationships. But also (preventing women from) having pleasure during sex is in and of itself a form of control.
Khan: There are cultures that think FGM is more hygienic, and that it keeps a woman clean. And in some cultures, it’s also seen as a way to increase fertility, when it fact it does not. These are all misconceptions and myths that come along with the practice.
Khan: We’re excited about that. It gives us hope that this can be stopped, and we thank them for their efforts.
Khan: At the U.S. End FGM/C Network, we were of course very disappointed in the judge’s decision to deem the federal statute against FGM unconstitutional.This law has been in place since 1996, and it’s been at the center of U.S. efforts, both nationally and internationally.
It really was a blow to all of us, but especially to survivors. However, we see some opportunities in that it raises awareness of the issue here.
We need to really unite on this to push for an appeal and to make sure that the evidence and the voices of survivors are amplified and are part of the main national conversation.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.