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Female genital mutilation threatens 500K American girls as families adhere to cultural tradition, shipping children abroad for deadly procedure

American girls

(NaturalNews) Contrary to popular belief, female genital mutilation is not an issue that is confined to remote African villages. In fact, more than half a million women and girls right here in the U.S. are believed to be at risk.

Female genital mutilation refers to any procedure that purposely injures or alters female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It has no health benefits, and is considered a violation of human rights. It's typically carried out on young girls before the age of 15, and is done for cultural reasons.

It might entail the partial or total removal of a woman's clitoris and or/labia minora. One relatively common variation sees the narrowing of the vaginal opening by cutting and then repositioning the labia to cover it like a seal. It could also entail piercing, scraping or cauterizing the genital area.

An American woman who was subjected to female genital mutilation has been raising awareness about the issue. Mariya Taher, 33, recalls being brought to an old-looking apartment at just seven years of age while on a trip to Mumbai, where she was told to lie down on the floor and was then cut with something sharp. She said she remembers crying, feeling pain and being scared.

Taher first started speaking out against the practice anonymously, but she has bravely decided to go public. Now, Taher is campaigning to put an end to the practice. While her horrific experience took place in Mumbai, she says that her sister was cut here in the U.S., and her story is unfortunately not the only one of its kind.

Raising awareness

"I felt it was important to let people know that it does happen here in the United States and that it's something that I'm against and it shouldn't occur.

"It's definitely scary to come out with my face on camera because I don't want to be judged for having undergone female genital cutting, or viewed as a victim."

Taher has established an organization known as Sahiyo that uses education and community engagement to stop cutting. She has also joined the Massachusetts Female Genital Cutting Task Force, and is trying to get state legislation passed that will ban the practice.

Female genital mutilation more common than most people think

While some Americans have never even heard of the practice, it's the reality for many women around the world. More than 3 million girls are believed to be at risk each year. The practice is most common in parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 200 million females have been cut in the 30 countries where the practice is most prevalent.

American women still affected despite banning of practice

The practice has been illegal in the U.S. since 1996, and a federal law was passed in 2012 banning people from sending their kids to other countries to get a so-called "vacation cutting." Nevertheless, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 500,000 women and young girls in our country are still at risk.

According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of girls at risk for the procedure in the U.S. has more than doubled over the last decade, and this is largely attributable to the rise in immigration from countries where the practice is a strong cultural tradition.

California sees the biggest number of girls who are at risk, followed by New York and Minnesota. Hawaii, on the other hand, is the only state that does not have any girls at risk.

Brutal procedure has serious complications

The practice can result in a number of health complications, including excessive bleeding, severe pain, fever, infections, shock, urinary problems, scar tissue, menstrual problems and even death. It can also cause sexual problems such as decreased satisfaction and painful intercourse. If the victim is still able to get pregnant, she could experience complications in childbirth, including delivery problems and even newborn death. It can also bring about a host of psychological problems, including low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.

The practice is typically considered to be a cultural tradition by the societies that carry it out, and they often use this as an argument for continuing the barbaric practice. It is also linked to certain cultural ideals of modesty and femininity, with girls believed to be more "clean" after the procedure. In some cultures, it's also believed to increase a girl's marriageability and ensure her marital fidelity.

As more women like Taher speak out and draw awareness to the issue and its life-changing effects, it is hoped that the world will soon put an end to this devastating procedure.

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