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ICE, federal partners continue efforts to raise awareness, combat female genital mutilation

Human RightsICE, federal partners continue efforts to raise awareness, combat female genital mutilation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC), the FBI’s International Human Rights Unit (IHRU) and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) joined national and international law enforcement partners and non-governmental organizations today in recognizing the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

“International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM is an opportunity to raise awareness of this global human rights issue,” said Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Executive Associate Director Steve Francis. “HSI will continue to work with partners around the globe to end this abhorrent practice, advocate for victims, and bring perpetrators to justice.”

“The Department of Justice is committed to supporting efforts to end FGM, 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.”

Federal 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, including:

HSI launching Operation Limelight USA in 2017, its premier FGM outreach and education program, which has been recognized domestically by the Women in Federal Law Enforcement and internationally by the World Class Policing Awards as a critical outreach effort to combat FGM.
The HRVWCC conducting 23 outreach and training events, educating more than 1,180 participants to include federal agents, community members, non-governmental organizations, and state and local entities in fiscal year 2022.
The Justice Department’s Office of Victims of Crime being 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. Learn more at: DOJ announces nearly $3 million to address female genital mutilation and cutting (ojp.gov).
Federal law enforcement authorities actively investigating allegations of FGM within the United States and, if a United States citizen is involved, abroad. Agencies collect tips and leads from the public and partner with non-governmental organizations to 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.
Examples of other agency initiatives aimed at protecting women and girls at risk of FGM can be found in the 2021 STOP FGM Act Annual Report of the Attorney General.

FGM is a form of child abuse, a serious human rights violation and 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 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, further aligning the U.S. definition of FGM with the World Health Organization’s definition, 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 DOJ 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.

HSI’s HRVWCC is focused on investigating global atrocities and the perpetrators of human rights violations and war crimes. 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, female genital mutilation 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.

Anyone with information about victims or suspected perpetrators of female genital mutilation or other human rights abuses are urged to call the HSI tip line at 866-347-2423 or the FBI tip line at 800-225-5324. You can also submit a tip online. HSI’s call center and online portal are available anytime, and tips may be provided anonymously. For more information about female genital mutilation visit the United Nations’ website.

Story from www.ice.gov

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity.

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