Justice Department and Federal Partners Recognize Zero Tolerance Day for Female Genital Mutilation
For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
The Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) joined federal partners, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC) and the FBI’s International Human Rights Unit (IHRU), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and others today in recognizing the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
“Female genital mutilation, a form of gender-based violence and child abuse, will not be tolerated today — or any day — in the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Justice Department and our law enforcement partners remain committed to holding perpetrators accountable and to providing support for victims of FGM using every tool available to us.”
“Female genital mutilation is a devastating crime affecting the lifelong emotional and physical wellbeing of survivors,” said Assistant Director Michael D. Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Ending this human rights abuse will take a multidisciplinary approach from law enforcement, including community outreach, education, and training. Today and every day, the FBI stands with women and girls against FGM and all forms of violence.”
“This international observance provides an opportunity to recognize this global issue, while raising awareness of those whose lives have been claimed or who have suffered life-long effects from this abhorrent practice,” said Executive Associate Director Katrina W. Berger of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “HSI, along with our global partners, is dedicated to ending this practice, advocating for victims, and bringing 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:
- The Justice Department’s Office of Victims of Crime awarded over $5 million in 2020 and 2021 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, please see www.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh241/files/media/document/ojp-news-10302020.pdf.
- Federal law enforcement authorities actively investigate allegations of FGM within the United States and abroad. Agencies collect tips and leads from the public and partner with NGOs 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. Individuals suspected of FGM may be investigated by the HRVWCC and prosecuted by the Justice Department as appropriate.
- The FBI’s IHRU proactively conducts outreach to NGOs and provides frequent trainings to educate both the public and the FBI workforce on the FGM violation. These trainings provide awareness to the public about this form of abuse, which is a federal crime, as well as provide the FBI workforce the necessary tools to investigate and prevent instances of FGM.
- The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) administers federal grant funding authorized under the Violence Against Women Act to prevent and address sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. Funds from certain OVW grant programs may be used by grantees to provide culturally specific victim services and responses to FGM.
- HSI launched Operation Limelight USA, a premier FGM outreach and education program, in 2017, 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 STOP FGM Act 2022 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 the United States. 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 existing 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.
According to UNICEF, more than 200 million women and girls have been subjected to 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 FGM 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.
Updated February 6, 2024