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Female genital mutilation is a harrowing procedure for girls and women. Parts of the genitalia are removed and the reasons for their extraction are 100 percent non-medical. Feminists and women’s rights activists have fought for decades against the act as it seen as a way of confiscating or deriving women of their human rights and sexual pleasure, and this year the crusade may be on its biggest mission ever to stop the practice.

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This past Friday, the United Nations declared it International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation to continue spreading the awareness of this barbaric procedure, that is still being practiced. There is no known date on when female circumcision started, but historians and doctors believe as far back as the 25 B.C. in Egypt because it was mentioned by Greek geographer Strabo.

As of 2015, more than 125 million girls and women in the new millennium have experienced genital mutilation.  While some African countries have banned the custom, a handful of other countries are still actively practicing the custom, as well as Middle Eastern countries. In the past, the circumcision was carried out black-market style and the act itself is gruesome: a woman’s external genitalia was literally cut off. A more technical term is infibulation, and there absolutely no health benefits to female circumcision. Instead, a woman’s body becomes more vulnerable to infertility, bleeding, urination problems, and prone to infections. And that’s just physical aftermath.  This practice tremendously affects women emotionally and psychologically. In Ancient Greek times, to prevent a woman from acting upon her (natural) sexual desires, her clitoris was subjected to removal.

Clearly, the reasons behind female circumcision are unquestionably sexist and it’s difficult knowing that such archaic ways at continue to be exercised. This year, for what may be a breakthrough in the fight against this circumcision are reports, researched by the Population Reference Bureau, that this has also occurred in the U.S., and the number could rise in years to come. But how did brutal and unnecessary female mutilation find its way unto the medical and health platform of the Free World?

The PRB concluded that this development has arisen because of the many immigrants from countries still executing female circumcision and their intent on being loyal to the customs of their native countries. Even if that means doing so illegally. In the U.S., female genital mutilation was banned in 1996-97, and in 2012, a law was passed that also condemned it illegal to have a girl travel outside of the country to get this “medical” procedure. Yet in 2015, 55 percent of African women and girls immigrants, or those living with African parents or from countries where it is still prevalent, in the U.S. are at risk of getting mutilated. Regarding the U.S.’s fight against FGM, the Zero Tolerance Act for FGM was introduced last Thursday by Democrats Rep. Joe Crowley and Rep. Sheila Jackson, leading to Friday’s day of recognition. The day was also supported by Safe Hands for Mothers, who released a video of Black men watching a re-enactment of female circumcision and their reactions to it. At the end, the  men pledge to join the fight with the slogan “I say ‘no’ to FGM.”

For a long time, the U.S was the last place to expect home-based female mutilation stories but it is happening. It’s no longer an issue that can be written off as happening over there, “there” being African countries or Islamic nations. Following President Obama‘s urge for us to join the ItsOnUs.org campaign that encourages all of us to speak up against violence towards women,we can also learn how to effectively demand the eradication of female circumcision.

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