FGM is a centuries-old, harmful, traditional practice that affects an estimated 140 million women and girls around the world causing lifelong physical and psychological harm. This practice that involves the removal of various parts of female genitalia is carried out across Africa, some countries in Asia and the Middle East, as well as in locations where FGM-practicing immigrants reside, including the United States. In 1997, research conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that at least 150,000 to 200,000 girls in the U.S. were at risk of being subjected to FGM. In a report released last year by the non-profit Sanctuary for Families, a group that works with domestic abuse victims, the Sanctuary concluded that FGM is on the rise in the United States. It found that the number of girls and women at risk for FGM in the U.S. increased by 35 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to an analysis from the 2000 U.S. Census.
It is mostly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and age 15. Procedures can cause severe bleeding and problems urinating; and later cysts, infections and infertility, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths.