Justice Department and Federal Partners Recognize Zero Tolerance Day for Female Genital Mutilation
The Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) joined federal partners, including the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC), the FBI’s International Human Rights Unit, non-governmental organizations, and others today in recognizing the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
“The Department of Justice is committed to supporting efforts to end Female Genital Mutilation, including by prosecuting those who violate the federal law banning FGM and by providing support to survivors of this harmful practice,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “FGM is a form of gender-based violence and child abuse, which will not be tolerated in the United States.”
“The FBI hopes to empower community members and victims to come forward and report these acts of abuse so we can end the practice of FGM together” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “FGM is a horrific act of physical violence that undermines the equality of women and girls and the FBI will hold accountable anyone who commits this federal human rights violation.”
“International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM is an opportunity to raise awareness of this global human rights issue,” said Acting Executive Associate Director Steve Francis of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “HSI will continue to work with partners around the globe to end this abhorrent practice, advocate for victims, and bring perpetrators to justice.”
Federal law enforcement agencies have engaged in many initiatives aimed at protecting those in the United States who have been subjected to, or who may be at risk of, FGM. For example:
- The Justice Department’s Office of Victims of Crime awarded over $5 million in three-year grants through a grant program to support community projects designed to increase direct services, education, and community partner engagement to stop the victimization of women and girls through FGM. For more information see: DOJ announces nearly $3 million to address female genital mutilation and cutting (ojp.gov).
- Federal law enforcement authorities actively investigate allegations of FGM within the United States and, if a United States citizen is involved, abroad. The agencies collect tips and leads from the public and partner with non-governmental organizations that will relay information if they suspect a child is in imminent danger of being subjected to FGM or taken out of the country for purposes of FGM.
- The FBI now includes information on FGM in the annual mandatory child abuse training for all FBI employees in hopes of further educating the workforce. The FBI’s International Human Rights Unit released educational reports on FGM for pediatricians and for educators.
- HSI launched Operation Limelight USA in 2017, a premier FGM outreach and education program, which has been recognized domestically and internationally as a critical outreach effort to combat FGM by the Women in Federal Law Enforcement and the World Class Policing Awards.
- Examples of other agency initiatives aimed at protecting women and girls at risk of FGM can be found in the 2021 STOP FGM Act Report Annual Report of the Attorney General.
FGM is a form of child abuse, a serious human rights violation and, since 1996, a federal crime. In 2013, Congress amended the federal FGM statute, 18 U.S.C. § 116, to prohibit taking a girl out of the United States for the purpose of performing FGM. In 2021, the STOP FGM Act 2020 was signed into law, strengthening the law by expanding the scope of punishable acts, and increasing the maximum penalty. Violations of this law may result in imprisonment and potential removal from the United States.
Individuals suspected of FGM may be investigated by the HRVWCC and prosecuted by the Justice Department accordingly.
In January 2021, the Justice Department indicted a Houston woman for allegedly taking a minor out of the United States for the purpose of subjecting her to FGM in a foreign country. Her trial is scheduled for May 15 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas and will mark the first prosecution under the provision of the federal statute that prohibits taking a girl out of the United States for the purpose of FGM. The FBI Houston Field Office investigated the case with support from the HRVWCC.
According to UNICEF, more than 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM, which refers to procedures that injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. While primarily concentrated in north, west, and central Africa, as well as parts of the Middle East and Asia, FGM also occurs in the United States.
Established in 2008, the HRVWCC furthers HSI’s efforts to identify, locate, and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, FGM, and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. The HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians, and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.
Members of the public who have information about victims or suspected perpetrators engaging in female genital mutilation or other human rights abuses are urged to call the FBI tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI (800) 225-5324 or the HSI tip line at (866) 347-2423. To submit a tip online, visit tips.fbi.gov or the HSI online form. Tips may be provided anonymously.