February 6 marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the FBI, and the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, all members of the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC), join U.S. and foreign government partners, non-governmental organizations, and local communities to call for the eradication of the practice.
The elimination of FGM/C has broad implications for the health and human rights of women and girls, as well as societies at large. This day serves as an opportunity to reflect on victims who have suffered from female genital mutilation/cutting, including many women and girls who have died or suffered lifelong health complications from the practice. The day also renews a global commitment to the health and well-being of all women, girls and communities by eliminating the practice.
Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is a federal crime, and any involvement in committing this crime is a serious human rights violation, which may result in imprisonment and potential removal from the United States. Individuals suspected of FGM/C, including sending girls overseas to be cut, may be investigated by the HRVWCC and prosecuted accordingly. In 2017, the HRVWCC initiated Operation Limelight USA, a program designed to bring awareness of FGM/C to passengers flying to countries where FGM/C is prevalent, to identify potential victims and perpetrators of FGM and to deter its practice. Since June 2017, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in partnership with non-governmental organizations, FBI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and others have conducted outreach operations at 18 U.S. airports and have engaged with nearly 4,000 passengers on 168 flights.
“Female genital mutilation is an affront to the human rights of women and girls throughout the world,” said Mark Shaffer, Chief of ICE’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center. “Ending this practice will require continued cooperation and creativity of governments, partner organizations, and communities.”
“Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting is a significant threat targeting women in our communities and around the world. The FBI is committed to identifying and investigating the human rights violators who perpetrate this heinous crime,” said Acting Unit Chief Tyrone Lara of the FBI International Human Rights Unit. “We are also dedicated to working with our domestic and international partners to bring perpetrators to justice and put an end to this practice worldwide.”
FGM/C prevalence is primarily concentrated in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, but also occurs in parts of Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. It is global in scope and found in multiple geographies, religions, and socioeconomic classes.
Anyone who has information about an individual who is suspected of assisting in this crime is urged to call the toll-free ICE tip line at (866) 347-2423 or complete the ICE online tip form or the FBI online tip form. All are staffed around the clock, and tips may be provided anonymously.
For more information about the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting, view this Fact Sheet on FGM/C from the U.S. Department of State or visit the United Nations’ Zero Tolerance Day website.