New York State Raises Awareness About Female Circumcision (FC)

What is Female Circumcision?

It is the practice of removing either part or all of the external female genitalia. While it may be a deeply rooted practice, it is not performed for medical reasons. It is done for religious, social or cultural reasons.

Female Circumcision is also known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Female Genital Cutting (FGC) or simply "cutting". Female circumcision (FC) is the most common name.

This practice puts the health of thousands of girls and young women in New York State at great risk for lifelong physical and psychological damage, according to the World Health Organization. It is also illegal to perform FC in New York State.

Who is at risk?

It is estimated that more than 7,500 girls and women in New York State are at risk for having FC performed on them either in the state or overseas. Girls living in communities that practice FC are most at risk. Communities of immigrants that practice FC are most often from African countries. Some are from the Middle East and Asian countries. Girls are more at risk if FC has been carried out on their mother, sister or member of their extended family.

New York State has the second highest number of women and girls at risk for FC in the United States, according to the Population Reference Bureau.

During school vacations, families may send girls out of state or to another country for circumcision. This practice is called "vacation cutting". Vacation cutting has been illegal at the federal level since 2013. It is a crime to send, or attempt to send, a female from the U.S., younger than 18 years, to have FC performed in another country.

There is an increasing number of U.S. females at risk for FC – especially girls younger than 18. This increase is due to an influx of immigrants from countries that practice female circumcision.

Types of Female Circumcision

There are several types of Female Circumcision. In the most severe form, the vagina is nearly closed. Just a small opening remains for urine and menstrual blood to escape.

  • Type I Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or its prepuce. The clitoris is a small organ in front of the opening of the vagina. The prepuce is the fold of skin around the clitoris. Type I is known as 'clitoridectomy'.
  • Type II Partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora. The labia minora are small, inner lips next to the vaginal opening. Type II may or may not include removal of the labia majora. These are the larger, outer lips beside the vaginal opening. Type II is known as 'excision'.
  • Type III The most severe form. Narrowing the vaginal opening by cutting the labia minora and/or labia majora and placing them side by side. This creates a seal with a small opening for urine and menstrual blood to escape. May or may not involve removal of the clitoris. Type III is known as an 'infibulation' or 'pharaonic type circumcision'.
  • Type IV All other harm to female genitalia for nonmedical purposes. Consists of pricking, piercing, stretching, cutting or burning (cauterization) the clitoris. Burning is done to make the clitoris unable to feel. This includes introducing corrosive substances into the vagina. Type IV is known as 'unclassified'.

Some reasons given for performing FC

What are the health consequences?

Female circumcision can be extremely painful and dangerous. It is likely to cause severe and lifelong damage to physical and emotional health. FC can cause numerous health problems, including:

  • Severe pain
  • Shock
  • Bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • Blood loss and infections, including HIV when unsterilized cutting tools are used
  • Death in some cases

Other health problems include, but are not limited to: problems urinating, painful menstrual periods, problems during and after childbirth, painful intercourse and post-traumatic stress disorder.

What is the law about FC in New York State?

It is illegal for female circumcision to be performed on women under the age of 18 in New York State. U.S. Code Title 18, Part I, Chapter 7 §116 states:

  1. Except as provided in subsection (b), whoever knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.
  2. A surgical operation is not a violation of this section if the operation is—
    1. necessary to the health of the person on whom it is performed, and is performed by a person licensed in the place of its performance as a medical practitioner; or
    2. performed on a person in labor or who has just given birth and is performed for medical purposes connected with that labor or birth by a person licensed in the place it is performed as a medical practitioner, midwife, or person in training to become such a practitioner or midwife.
  3. In applying subsection (b)(1), no account shall be taken of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be performed of any belief on the part of that person, or any other person, that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.
  4. Whoever knowingly transports from the United States and its territories a person in foreign commerce for the purpose of conduct with regard to that person that would be a violation of subsection (a) if the conduct occurred within the United States, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

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