A petition that calls on the Obama administration to tackle the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the United States has been signed by nearly 200,000 people.
Jaha Dukureh, a victim of FGM who has spearheaded the Change.org petition, will be on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to meet some of the more than 50 members of Congress who have lent their support to Dukureh’s petition, which calls on Barack Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services to commission research into the scale and severity of the problem in the US. Dukureh launched her campaign at the Guardian’s New York office last month with UN representative Nafissatou Diop, US congressman Joe Crowley and Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger.
Doctors treating women and girls with FGM say the research is badly needed. “We would know, we’d have a better sense of it nationally … The challenge that I’ve faced over my entire career has been that often times we do not have data,” said Dr Crista Johnson-Agbakwu, who treats women from 43 countries at the Refugee Women’s Health Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona, where a “staggering amount” of her patients have been cut.
FGM is a 5,000-year-old practice that takes place across large parts of Africa, the Middle East and south-east Asia. While there are varying types of severity, it essentially involves the partial or entire removal of the external female genitalia. Type III FGM, the most severe, requires the girl to be sewn closed until her wedding night. While there are grassroots movements in some African countries to phase out the practice, many diaspora communities still require a girl to be cut.