In February, federal investigators uncovered a Michigan-based network of doctors and others who practice female genital mutilation (FGM) on girls as young as six at medical clinics in the state.
FGM is the cutting of a girl’s genitalia with the aim to “purify” her and repress her sexuality. All defendants in the case are members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a religious Muslim group. One of the girls who underwent the procedure was reportedly told that she was going on a “special girls’ trip” to “get the germs out.”
While the victim in this case may find justice in the courtroom, their lives and bodies have been irrevocably changed. Survivors of FGM whom I spoke to for my documentary film Honor Diaries tell of the physical and emotional pain that remains long after the abuse. Sexual intercourse and childbirth become horribly painful and traumatic experiences. Women may have chronic urinary tract infections and are often plagued with depression and other invisible scars.
The World Health Organization estimates at least 200 million women today live with the consequences of FGM. In the United States, 507,000 women are at risk or have undergone the procedure. In the U.S., there is a federal statute against the practice and it is criminalized in several states. However, these laws have not prevented families from mutilating their girls or traveling overseas to undergo the process…