CLEVELAND — Wednesday, Feb. 6 is International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation( FGM).
It is an important day for millions of women and girls, including thousands in Ohio, which you may be surprised to learn.
FGM is a procedure that puts the health, and lives, of girls and women at risk. It is recognized internationally as a violation of their human rights. Yet, it continues predominately in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well.
In the United States, the CDC estimates 513,000 women and girls are at risk of, or have undergone, FGM.
In Ohio, it is estimated 24,320 could be at risk.
“At risk” means populations with high rates of FGM in their countries of origin.
The United States does have a federal law in place, but a Michigan judge recently ruled it unconstitutional. More states are now taking action.
Ohio just became the 28th state to criminalize FGM. The law makes it a felony to perform the procedure or take a child elsewhere to have it done.
Advocates say more education and outreach is needed for immigrant families, but this is a step in the right direction.
“We need to get over that fear of saying things that are uncomfortable or of being afraid of calling out a practice that we think we might not have the right to say is harmful to someone else,” said Amanda Parker with the AHA Foundation.
“Culture is a beautiful thing and traditions are a beautiful thing, but when we're impacting the human rights of someone else, and in this case we're talking about the human rights of a little girl, we need to stop because violence is violence and abuse is abuse, and we need to stand up and say this is wrong."
The international goal is to end FGM by the year 2030.
Learn more here