On June 13, special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) launched Operation Limelight USA at Washington Dulles International Airport. The program is designed to increase public awareness about female genital mutilation (FGM) and help to deter its practice.
FGM is a cultural practice that involves cutting or other harm to female genitalia for non-medical reasons. It is often performed on girls between the ages of six and ten. FGM provides no health benefits and, in fact, can cause severe health effects – significant bleeding and acute pain, as well as life-long consequences of chronic infection, childbirth complications, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and even death.
As part of Operation Limelight USA, specially trained HSI and FBI agents talked with families and other passengers about the harms of FGM and shared informational materials on the criminal penalties for FGM and available resources for girls at risk. The three-day program, June 13 to 15, reached travelers on nine international flights bound for connecting hubs or destinations with high prevalence rates of FGM. It was held at the beginning of summer vacation when girls may be sent from the United States to other countries to undergo FGM, a practice known as “vacation cutting.”
“Brutality of this nature is inconceivable and horrifying to many people around the world” said Patrick J. Lechleitner, special agent in charge of HSI Washington, D.C. “HSI will steadfastly enforce U.S. law protecting women and girls from this violent, illegal, and barbaric practice, whether it’s happening here at home or is facilitated abroad in an attempt to evade our laws.”