On Nov. 14, Operation Limelight was honored at the World Class Policing Awards in London for its collaborative international initiative to fight female genital mutilation (FGM). The United Kingdom (U.K.) Border Force and Metropolitan Police, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)’s law enforcement partners in the U.K., were recognized alongside the FBI. The team beat out 54 finalists to win a “highly commended” prize at the event which honors outstanding police work from across the world.
Operation Limelight began in 2014 as a joint initiative between the U.K. Border Force and police services across the U.K. Its goal is to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM) by engaging with families traveling to countries with a high prevalence of FGM, to raise awareness of FGM, and to prevent and eventually to end the practice. In 2016, HSI launched Operation Limelight USA, based on the U.K. model, in airports throughout the country. HSI agents educate passengers flying to or from high-risk countries, offer informational brochures and identify potential victims and violators of FGM. These discussions inform passengers of the consequences of involvement in FGM and provide passengers with means to refer cases or receive victim assistance.
In 2018, law enforcement officials from the United States and the U.K. signed a joint proclamation affirming their commitment to end the practice of FGM and reinforcing the need to cooperate across borders to address this international issue.
“We are honored to be recognized alongside the Metropolitan Police, the Border Force, and the FBI,” said HSI Deputy Assistant Director for National Security Louis Rodi. “We must work together, across borders, to end this brutal practice. FGM is a heinous crime, one that is difficult to detect and so harmful to those who experience it. It is only though cooperation and collaboration that we can fight this abuse.”
According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM, referring to cutting and other 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. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately 500,000 women and girls in the United States are either victims of FGM or are at risk of being subjected to it.
Anyone with information about victims or perpetrators of female genital mutilation is encouraged to call the toll-free HSI tip line at (866) 347-2423 or complete the HSI online tip form. For more information about female genital mutilation, view this fact sheet from the U.S. Department of State and visit www.un.org, www.unfpa.org, and www.unicef.org.