Female Genital Mutilation/Female Circumcision: Who Is At Risk In The United States?

August 18, 1997

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 168,000 girls and women living in the United States in 1990 were at risk for or had been subject to female genital mutilation/female circumcision (FGM/FC). The term refers to a group of traditional practices that involve partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs, for cultural, religious, or other nontherapeutic reasons. The estimate was made as part of an effort to determine how many girls and women in the United States had been subjected to the practice.

A 1996 Federal law made it a crime to perform FGM/FC in the United States on girls under 18 years of age. In addition, the Secretary of Health and Human Services was directed to "compile data on the number of females living in the United States who have been subject to female genital mutilation (whether in the United States or in their countries of origin) including specification of the number of girls under the age of 18 who have been subject to mutilation." Since no direct information was available, CDC used U.S. census data on country of origin and place of birth, and information on the prevalence of the practice in Asian and African countries to calculate the total number of girls and women at risk in the Untied States. The detailed methods--including their limitations--are described in the article.

CDC believes these estimates will be useful to the Department, state, and local health departments, and others who are working with immigrant communities to eliminate these practices and the harm they cause. The population at risk is estimated to be concentrated in a dozen states (New York, California, Texas, New Jersey, Maryland, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Massachusetts) and 11 metropolitan areas (New York City, Washington DC, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Oakland, Newark, Dallas, and Boston), where large populations of immigrants from FGM/FC-practicing counties reside..

CONTACT: Wanda K. Jones, DrPH, Associate Director for Women1s Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; tel. 404-639-7230; fax 404-639-7331; e-mail wkj1@cdc.gov.
Other Authors, Jack Smith, MS; Burney Kieke, Jr., MS; Lynne Wilcox, MD MPH

Public Health Reports

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