Sunday December 16, 2018
Home Lead Story US Immigratio...

US Immigration Agency Opens up on Female Mutilation

Female Mutilation should be stopped, opens up US Immigration Agency

0
//
FILE - A man's T-shirt reads
FILE - A man's T-shirt reads "Stop the Cut," referring to female genital cutting or mutilation, during a social event advocating against the practice at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani. VOA
Republish
Reprint

On a few days over the last year, federal agents approached travellers at several U.S. airports — flights bound for or connecting to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Frankfurt, Germany, and Dakar, Senegal.

The officials — part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — weren’t searching for contraband, or guiding bag-sniffing dogs. They were part of a smaller office within the agency that doesn’t focus on detaining and deporting people. Instead, they were handing out printed materials. They wanted to talk about female genital cutting.

JFK. Newark. Washington-Dulles. They targeted some of the country’s biggest international airports. In May, they roamed the gates in Atlanta — in the state where an Ethiopian man deported last year was believed to be the first person criminally convicted in the United States for FGC, sometimes referred to as female genital mutilation or FGM.

ICE declined a request to speak with the agents for details about how the initiative is carried out. There are brochures involved and, according to photos attached to the agency’s news releases, male and female agents chat with women about to board flights abroad.

FGC is a federal crime, the agency says it tells travellers. It can have consequences on child custody, and in immigration cases, too, even if the procedure is performed outside the U.S.

FILE - A badge reads "The power of labor aginst FGM" is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in Cairo, Egypt. VOA
FILE – A badge reads “The power of labor aginst FGM” is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in Cairo, Egypt. VOA

An agency spokeswoman told VOA via email that “people were happy to hear that’s why [Homeland Security Investigations, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security] was out there with materials. Some folks have never heard of it; many have but don’t understand it, the extent of the problem and how harmful the procedure and associated complications are. And some women had been subjected themselves to FGM.”

The project is modelled after one in the United Kingdom, an “awareness” campaign designed to talk about the risks of FGC and publicize the criminality of the procedure.

Removing part of the female genitals for nonmedical reasons is a practice concentrated in a few dozen countries, but performed on a smaller scale in many more, including the United States, where cases have been documented dating to as early as the 19th century. Last year, ICE investigators unravelled the Michigan case of a medical doctor performing FGC on young girls.

Reasons given

The justifications can include religious, cultural or pseudomedical rationales, like when U.S. doctors used the procedure to treat “hysteria.” Hundreds of thousands of women and girls in the U.S. are FGC survivors, or are vulnerable to it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mariya Taher, head of Sahiyo — a U.S. nongovernmental organization that advocates for an end to FGC — has spoken publicly about her experience surviving the procedure. Now, her organization is spearheading its own effort to publicize the stories of other survivors in the U.S., with a video project due out this month.

FILE - A counselor talks to a group of women to try to convince them that they should not have subject their daughters to female genital mutilation, in Minia, Egypt. VOA
FILE – A counselor talks to a group of women to try to convince them that they should not have subject their daughters to female genital mutilation, in Minia, Egypt. VOA

Does Taher think ICE agents handing out pamphlets and talking to families headed to visit relatives abroad, who are maybe considering having the procedure done on their daughters, or planning to have it done on that summer vacation, is an effective method?

“A large part of prevention is educating that it IS illegal … many people don’t recognize that it IS,” said Taher. She wants to know more about what information is being shared and how the conversations with travellers are happening before passing judgment on the project.

Unintentional effect?

“Any effort about the health, legal consequences, support services, I think is really helpful and beneficial,” Taher said. On the other hand, she noted, “I feel conflict. We’re trying to show that FGC happens across the board, regardless of ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status. … I’m a little afraid, if we’re just targeting certain countries, that we’re unintentionally misrepresenting whom FGC happens to.”

Also Read: “The Restorers” : Kenyan Girls Use Technology to Combat Female Genital Mutilation

Dozens of U.S. states have passed laws, in addition to the federal legislation, criminalizing FGC. In the Michigan case, doctors who performed the procedure on girls were charged, as well as four mothers who agreed to the medically unnecessary surgeries. (VOA)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2018 NewsGram

Next Story

Refugees’ Entitled To Claim The Right To Asylum in The U.S: U.N.

We believe governments have the right to defend their borders and should do so responsibly.

0
Refugees, Migrants, Asylum seekers, Trump
Honduran migrant Genesis Belen Mejia Flores, 7, waves an American flag at U.S. border control helicopters flying overhead near the Benito Juarez Sports Center serving as a temporary shelter for Central American migrants, in Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

Asylum seekers at the Mexican border fleeing violence or persecution are entitled to lodge claims in the United States to obtain sanctuary there, U.N.
agencies said in a fresh attempt to shield migrants from tough U.S. immigration policies.

U.N. officials have repeatedly urged Washington to ensure asylum seekers are protected, but U.S. President Donald Trump said Monday that Mexico should send migrants seeking asylum in the United States back to their home countries.

U.S. authorities fired tear gas canisters toward migrants in Mexico — near the border crossing separating Tijuana from San Diego, Calif. — on Sunday when some rushed through border fencing into the United States. Mexico’s foreign ministry presented a diplomatic note to the U.S. government on Monday calling for a “full investigation.”

Refugees, Migrants, Asylum seekers
Men line up for dinner outside a shelter housing members of the migrant caravan, in Tijuana, Mexico. VOA

After Trump signed an order limiting asylum rights earlier this month, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the United States must make sure anyone fleeing violence or persecution can get protection “without obstruction.”

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch, asked on Tuesday about U.S. forces firing tear gas at migrants, told a Geneva news briefing: “We are following those reports with concern. We are still trying to understand what transpired there.”

Border management is “a sovereign prerogative of national governments,” but border security and international protection for refugees are not mutually exclusive, he said.

Rohingya, myanmar, violence,asylum
Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

“It means that any person whose life is at risk in their country of origin must be able to access territory and request asylum in a safe country. And each asylum request should be considered individually.

“We have been repeating our call on the U.S. authorities to grant access to the territory and to asylum procedure to those who are fleeing persecution and violence,” he said.

Sunday’s incident was the latest chapter in a saga that has pitted Trump’s hard-line immigration policies against thousands of migrants who have made their way north through Mexico from violent and impoverished Central American countries.

Rohingya, myanmar, violence,asylum
Rohingya refugees walk under rain clouds on June 26, 2018, in Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh. VOA

About 3,500 migrants from the caravans have applied for asylum in Mexico, Baloch said. Seven migrants have died in incidents along the way, Joel Millman of the International Organization for Migration said.

Also Read: Refugee Communities Can Be Built By Tech Industries

“We believe governments have the right to defend their borders and should do so responsibly,” he said. “We also think migrants certainly should have the expectation that there be an access that is legal and safe for them to at least seek to cross
a border.” (VOA)