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Female Circumcision in the United States

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021016/00001

Material Information

Title: Female Circumcision in the United States An Analysis of Laws and Policies
Physical Description: 1 online resource (46 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Schubert, Katie A
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: asylum, circumcision, cutting, fc, fgm, genital
Sociology -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Sociology thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: With the recent influx of immigrants to the United States, it is important to analyze some of the laws and policies that affect them. This work focuses on United States laws and policies regarding female circumcision. Chapter 1 gives an overview of female circumcision--its definition, history, and prevalence throughout the world. Chapter 2 provides an overview of existing legislation in the United States in regard to female circumcision. Chapter 3 analyzes how female circumcision is affecting asylum law in the United States and provides some of the most influential female circumcision asylum cases in the U.S. Chapter 4 summarizes the main points in this work and provides possible policy implications. Furthermore, sociological issues are examined and applied to these finding. The analysis in this work brings to light that there may be some bias in United States laws and policies regarding female circumcision. Reasons for such biases must be analyzed and changes to U.S. legislation should be enacted to better address the concerns of immigrants.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Katie A Schubert.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Vera, Hernan.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021016:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021016/00001

Material Information

Title: Female Circumcision in the United States An Analysis of Laws and Policies
Physical Description: 1 online resource (46 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Schubert, Katie A
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: asylum, circumcision, cutting, fc, fgm, genital
Sociology -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: Sociology thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: With the recent influx of immigrants to the United States, it is important to analyze some of the laws and policies that affect them. This work focuses on United States laws and policies regarding female circumcision. Chapter 1 gives an overview of female circumcision--its definition, history, and prevalence throughout the world. Chapter 2 provides an overview of existing legislation in the United States in regard to female circumcision. Chapter 3 analyzes how female circumcision is affecting asylum law in the United States and provides some of the most influential female circumcision asylum cases in the U.S. Chapter 4 summarizes the main points in this work and provides possible policy implications. Furthermore, sociological issues are examined and applied to these finding. The analysis in this work brings to light that there may be some bias in United States laws and policies regarding female circumcision. Reasons for such biases must be analyzed and changes to U.S. legislation should be enacted to better address the concerns of immigrants.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Katie A Schubert.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Vera, Hernan.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021016:00001


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FEMALE CIRCUMCISION IN THE UNITED STATES:
AN ANALYSIS OF LAWS AND POLICIES



















By

KATIE ANN SCHU7BERT


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007




































O 2007 Katie Ann Schubert












TABLE OF CONTENTS


page

AB S TRAC T ......_ ................. ............_........4


CHAPTER


1 INTRODUCTION ................. ...............5.......... ......


Types of Female Circumcision ................. ...............5................
History of Female Circumcision............... ..............
Prevalence of Female Circumcision ................. ...............9.......... .....
In Africa ................. ...............9.................
In A sia ................ ...............10...
In the United States .............. ... ......... ..... ........... ... ... ..........1
The Medicalization of Female Circumcision in the United States ............. ............__ ...13
The International Consumption of Female Circumcision and Western Interventions ...........14
Concluding Remarks .............. ...............15....

2 UNITED STATES LEGISLATION RELATING TO FEMALE CIRCUMCISION..........._.16


Federal Legislation .............. ...............16....
State Legislations ................. ...............17........... ...
Other Legislations ................. ............... ...............18......
Is Legislation Enough or Too Much? ............. ...............20.....

3 FEMALE CIRCUMCISION AND ASYLUM INT THE UNITED STATES .........................24


Brief Overview of Asylum Law in the United States ................. ...............24........... .
Influential Asylum Cases............... ...............26.
In re Kasinga (1996) ....___ ................. ...............26. ...
Abankwah y. INTS (1999)............... ...............27.
Abay v. Ashcroft (2004) ....__. ................. ........__. ........2
Mohamed v. Gonzales (2005) .............. .. ...............29...
Significance of Female Circumcision Asylum Cases............... ...............30.

4 CONCLUSIONS .............. ...............32....


Legislation Implications .............. ...............32....
Asylum Law Implications............... ..............3
The Value of Language ........._.._... .. ....._. ...............34....
The Significance of"Cultural Practices" ................ ...._.._ ...............36.....

LI ST OF REFERENCE S ...._._. ................. ......._._. .........4


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .............. ...............46....









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

FEMALE CIRCUMCISION IN THE UNITED STATES:
AN ANALYSIS OF LAWS AND POLICIES

By

Katie Ann Schubert

August 2007

Chair: Hernan Vera
Major: Sociology

With the recent influx of immigrants to the United States, it is important to analyze some

of the laws and policies that affect them. This work focuses on United States laws and policies

regarding female circumcision. Chapter 1 gives an overview of female circumcision--its

definition, history, and prevalence throughout the world. Chapter 2 provides an overview of

existing legislation in the United States in regard to female circumcision. Chapter 3 analyzes

how female circumcision is affecting asylum law in the United States and provides some of the

most influential female circumcision asylum cases in the U.S. Chapter 4 summarizes the main

points in this work and provides possible policy implications. Furthermore, sociological issues

are examined and applied to these finding. The analysis in this work brings to light that there

may be some bias in United States laws and policies regarding female circumcision. Reasons for

such biases must be analyzed and changes to U.S. legislation should be enacted to better address

the concerns of immigrants.









CHAPTER 1
INTTRODUCTION

With increasing immigration, female circumcision is becoming an international practice.

The issue of female circumcision was first raised as a matter of concern at the United Nations

Commission on Human Rights in 1981 (Center for Reproductive Rights, 2004). Since then,

legislation criminalizing female circumcision has been adopted in 16 countries, including nine

African countries (Center for Reproductive Rights, 2004). Many individuals believe the practice

of female circumcision is a human rights violation, specifically feminist groups in western

nations. In the United States, female circumcision is often called female genital mutilation

(FGM). This paper will use the lesser morally charged term, female circumcision (FC).

With the practice entering the United States through immigration, the already

controversial topic is becoming even more of a contentious subj ect. Western feminists look to

eradicate the procedure, not only in the West but also in the procedure's countries of origin.

Because FC is becoming a global phenomenon, the United States has begun to address the topic

with policies and law. This study will explore these laws and policies as well as the court cases

in the United States pertaining to FC. Chapter 1 will give a brief overview of the history,

definitions, and prevalence of FC. Chapter 2 will cover federal and state laws in the United

States pertaining to FC. Chapter 3 will summarize the main cases in the United States that

address granting refugees asylum based on their fears of female circumcision in their country of

origin. Finally, Chapter 4 will summarize possible policy implications for the United States and

how they relate to several sociological issues.

Types of Female Circumcision

There are several types of female circumcision. Type I, known as clitorectomy, is the

procedure when the hood of the clitoris (the prepuce) is removed, with or without the excision of










part or all of the clitoris. This type of circumcision is the least severe and the least common

(Dorkenoo and Elworthy, 1992). Type II, excision, is the removal of the clitoris and all or part of

the labia minora. Type III, modified infibulation, is the removal of the clitoris, labia minora, and

most (usually around two thirds) of the labia majoera. Type III is a milder form of the last, Type

IV, leaving a larger posterior opening. Type IV, known as infibulation or pharaonic

circumcision, is the most common and severe form of female circumcision (Gruenbaum, 2001).

This type of circumcision includes the removal of the clitoris, labia minora, and labia majoera.

The remaining parts of the labia maj ora are sutured together to cover the urethra and the vagina.

After the last three forms of circumcision, the girl is sutured, leaving only a small hole

about the size of a matchstick for urination and menstrual flow. When sutures are not used, other

adhesive substances such as sugar, eggs, and in rare cases, animal excreta are placed on the

wound to allow the formation of scar tissue (Report of Female Genital Mutilation, 2001).

Because of the highly invasive process, the girl's legs must be bound together and she must

remain immobile for 40 days to permit the formation of scar tissue (Dorkenoo and Elworthy).

Once healed, the female is left with a perfectly smooth vulva of skin and scar tissue.

Reinfibulation is done after childbirth to restore the small vaginal opening. In addition to these

types of circumcision, there are also symbolic circumcision rituals. These circumcision rituals

include pricking, piercing, or incising of the clitoris and/or labia; stretching of the clitoris and/or

labia; cauterizing by burning of the clitoris and surrounding tissue; scraping of tissue

surrounding the vaginal orifice or cutting of the vagina; or the introduction of corrosive

substances or herbs into the vagina to cause bleeding or for the purposes of tightening or

narrowing it (Abu-Sahlieh, 2001).









The circumcision of the female is usually done without anesthetic. Depending on the

culture, a wide variety of instruments have been used; knives, razors, scissors, and sometimes

even sharp stones have been used to perform the procedure--most of which are not sterile. In

many cases, several girls are circumcised during a single ritual ceremony and the instrument

used for the circumcision is used on a number of girls. The age at which a female will undergo

circumcision varies by region, country, and community. Girls are usually circumcised between

the ages of four and twelve, but in some cultures females are circumcised as early as a few days

after birth or as late as immediately prior to marriage, during pregnancy or after the first birth

(Report on Female Genital Mutilation, 2001). However, there has been an overall decrease in the

age at which girls are undergoing the practice in recent years (Yoder et al., 2004; Report on

Female Genital Mutilation, 2001).

History of Female Circumcision

Although the origins of female circumcision are unclear, the practice dates back to

antiquity (Lightfoot-Klein, 1989). Herodotus, a famous historian, reported female circumcision

among Egyptians, Ethiopians, Hittites, and Phoenicians during the 5th century B.C. (Lightfoot-

Klein). In addition, many Nile Valley people who practice infibulations believe the practice

originated in the society of the pharaohs, hence the name given to the most severe from of

circumcision- pharonic circumcision (Gruenbaum, 2001). It is unknown at what time the

practice became associated with virginity and chastity or religion.

There are many theories as to why female circumcision continued as a custom. First,

female circumcision was believed to be a way for men to gain mastery over women's sexuality.

Circumcision was believed to take women's sexual freedom from them and make them the

private property of their husbands. Watson (2005) noted that since men would be away from

their homes for long periods of time, they wanted reassurance that children born during their









absence were their own. Most forms of circumcision allow only a small hole for urination and

menstrual flow. When the woman has intercourse for the first time, her husband must cut the

hole wider to allow for penetration. This hole was sewn up when the husband departed for long

periods of time. In addition, slave girls in Africa were infibulated to keep them from getting

pregnant (Lightfoot-Klein, 1989). In ancient Egypt, girls could not marry, inherit property, or

enter a mosque unless they were circumcised (Lightfoot-Klein). This was related to the

Pharaonic belief in the bisexuality of the gods (Gruenbaum, 2001):

humans were thought to reflect [the bisexuality of the gods] in their anatomies, with the
feminine soul" of the man being situated in the prepuce and the masculine soul" of the
woman being in the clitoris. Male circumcision and female clitoridectomy and labia
removal are thus needed for one to become fully a man or fully a woman. (p.43)


Furthermore, circumcision was intended to make a woman pure, clean, and smooth (Boddy,

1991); many who live in these cultures find the smooth, infibulated vulva highly feminine and

aesthetically pleasing (Boyle, 2002).

Many countries practicing female circumcision believe their religion, specifically Islam,

sanctions the practice. Egypt is predominantly Muslim; Islam being the official state religion

(Boyle, 2002). One of the most prominent Islamic clerics in Egypt, Sheikh Gad el-Haqq, issued a

religious decree stating that female circumcision, although not required by Islam, was a religious

ritual and an honorable deed for women (Boyle, pp.3- 4). Furthermore, according to the grand

mufti, Fadilat Allam Bey Nassar (1951):

female circumcision is an Islamic practice mentioned in the tradition of the prophet, and
sanctioned by Imams and Jurists, in spite of the difference on whether it is a duty or a
sunna [tradition]. We support the practice as a sunna and sanction it in view of its effect
on attenuating the sexual desire in women and directing it to the desirable moderation.
(Quoted in Gruenbaum, 2001, p.63)









Scholars of the Islamic faith deny that the religion condones such practices (Gruenbaum) and it

is important to note that female circumcision is in no way endorsed by any religion. Still, many

Muslims use religion to legitimize the practice.

Prevalence of Female Circumcision

The World Health Organization estimated that in 2000, the number of girls and women

who have undergone female circumcision was between 100 and 140 million. Just in Africa, it is

estimated that up to 3 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt and Sudan are at risk of genital

mutilation annually (Yoder et al., 2004). The topic of female circumcision is taboo in most of the

cultures that practice FC. For this reason, it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics on

circumcision rates. Ellen Greunbam (2001) believes that the fear of outsider' s condemnations is

a large reason many people in these cultures do not talk about female circumcision: "people

dealing with foreigners were well advised to keep their female circumcision practices quiet or,

when discussed, downplay their extent" (16). Therefore, data on the prevalence of female

circumcision should be analyzed with caution.

In Africa

Female circumcision is most common in Africa and is widespread in 28 of its countries.

Female circumcision is not found in southern Africa or in the Arabic speaking nations of North

Africa, with the exception of Egypt (Althaus, 1997). Countries in the northeast of Africa (Egypt,

Eritrea, Ethiopia, and northern Sudan) have higher rates, ranging from 80 to 97 %, than countries

in the eastern part of Africa (Kenya and Tanzania), ranging from 18 to 38 % (Yoder et al, 2004).

The prevalence of FC at the national level among women 15-49 years of age in African

countries varies from 5 % in Niger (1998) to 99 % in Guinea (1999) (Yoder et al, 2004). Among

the 15 African countries for which FC prevalence data were available by the end of 2002, 8 had

prevalence levels between 71 and 99 %, and 7 were between 5 and 45 % (Yoder et al., 2004).









According to Gruenbaum (2001), Somalia, Djibouti, Egypt, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and

Eritrea contain half of the circumcised women and girls in Africa.

In all countries except for the ones with prevalence rates above 90 %, FC varies widely

within countries by ethnicity (Yoder et al., 2004). For instance, prevalence may be 1 % in one

ethnic group and 95 % in another within the same country (Yoder et al).

The most recent Demographic and Health Surveys on the prevalence rates of female

circumcision in Africa indicated that the practice of female circumcision has changed in the past

years. Data showed that girls are being circumcised at younger ages and there is less cutting than

in the past. Furthermore, there has been a trend towards the medicalization of female

circumcision, specifically in Egypt (Yoder et al., 2004); females are being circumcised more

often under sterile conditions by professionals.

In Asia

There are speculations, but no studies or concrete data, on the practice of female

circumcision in Asian countries. It is thought to occur throughout the coastal areas in The

Republic of Yemen and Oman, and among a small number of women in a few Bedouin tribes in

south Israel. (Report on Female Genital Mutilation, 2001). It is also believed to occur among

individuals in the Bedouin tribes and residents of the Hej az in Saudi Arabia and among a very

small number of women in a few Bedouin groups in Israel. (Report on Female Genital

Mutilation, 2001).

According to Sami A. Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh (2001), a recent United Arab Emirates survey

indicated that FC takes place in this country "in secret, far from men, who are rarely informed

about it" (14). Eighty-five percent of people questioned for an investigation regarding FC in

United Arab Emirates maintained FC continued to be practiced in the country (Abu-Sahlieh).









According to Abu-Sahlieh, several of his interviewees in 1999 indicated that the rate of FC was

higher than 90 % in Oman.

In Indonesia, the most common form of "circumcision" is a symbolic pricking, scraping

or touching of the clitoris (Report on Female Genital Mutilation, 2001). Lynda Newland (2006),

witnessed an infant girls circumcision in West Java, Indonesia. This circumcision, she wrote,

included the scraping of the clitoris with a needle until the baby began to cry. Newland went on

to explain that many people in Indonesia believe that this type of "circumcision" enhances a

woman's sexual pleasure rather than impairing it. In Malaysia, Muslim groups also practice this

less severe type of "circumcision"; a symbolic prick, a tiny ritual cut to the clitoris or simply

brining a blade close to the clitoris (Report on Female Genital Mutilation, 2001). This type of

"circumcision" also occurs among the Bohra Muslims in the largest cities of Sindh and Punj ab

provinces in Pakistan (Report on Female Genital Mutilation, 2001).

Other countries in Asia that have not been mentioned here either have a very small

prevalence of FC or information is not available on the prevalence of FC within the country. It is

believed that Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait,

Turkey, and Iran do not practice FC (Abu-Sahlieh). However, nothing guarantees that these

countries do not practice FC. There is some evidence that the Bedouin in Jordan practiced FC in

the beginning of the 19th century. The custom was called sirr, meaning a hidden and mysterious

thing (Abu-Sahlieh).

In the United States

Increasingly, female circumcision is seen in Europe, Australia, the United States, and

Canada because of immigration from countries that practice FC (World Health Organization,

2000). Little is known about the current prevalence of female circumcision in the United States.

In 1994, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that female circumcision had become a










public health issue in the United States (Bashir, 1997). Eyega and Conneely (1997) surveyed

health care providers in New York City in hopes of determining the prevalence of female

circumcision in the area. They surveyed a total of 40 nurses, 48 physicians, 43 registered nurses,

8 resident physicians, 6 nurse practitioners, and 3 physician's assistants. Eighty-seven percent of

the respondents reported having knowledge of female circumcision, gained mainly by patient

contact (76 %), general media (63 %), medical journals (50 %), other providers (36 %), and

training or conferences (29 % and 17 %). Out of these 87 % of respondents, 100 % of the nurse-

midwives, 85 % of the physicians, and 77 % of the registered nurses reported having knowledge

of female circumcision. Almost two-thirds of the respondents had treated circumcised women.

The Secretary of Health and Human Services was required by legislation to undertake a

study of female circumcision in the United States to determine who was at risk. They estimated

that approximately 168,000 girls and women (mostly from Africa) in this country were with or at

risk for female circumcision (Rahman and Toubia, 2001). Of these, 48,000 were under the age of

18. Forty-five percent of the 168,000 girls and women live in 11 metropolitan areas including

New York City, Washington, DC, Los-Angels-Long Beach, Houston, Chicago, and Philadelphia

(Jones et al., 1997). These figures are based on the 1990 U.S. Census (summarized in the U.S.

Secretary of State Report, 2001). In addition to performing this study, the Department of Health

and Human Services (DHHS) was required to carry out an educational outreach program for

communities at risk of female circumcision. According to Rahman and Toubia (2001), between

February and September 1997, the DHHS held community consultation meetings in Washington

DC, New York, Boston, San Diego, Houston, Atlanta, and Chicago. The department was also

required to survey medical schools, medical osteopathy schools, nursing schools, midwifery









schools, and schools of social work to attempt to determine the prevalence of female

circumcision (Rahman and Toubia, 2001).

The Medicalization of Female Circumcision in the United States

In the United States from the 1880s to the 1950s, excision was performed to supposedly

prevent, frigidity, hysteria, depression, epilepsy, kleptomania, and melancholia in women

(Watson, 2005). Circumcisions were also performed to cure masturbation, lesbianism,

nymphomania (desiring excessive amounts of sex), and any other form of abnormal sexual

behavior. In 1910, De Forest Willard, in his book The Surgery of Childhood, claimed that an

irritated clitoris-- one whose hood bound it down too tightly and therefore caused irritating

adhesions to remain trapped--could cause a woman or girl to masturbate in order to quell the

discomfort (as cited in Webber, 2003). Willard claimed that a girl's prepuce should therefore be

circumcised to relieve this discomfort. In 1948, a five-year-old girl in the United States

underwent a clitoridectomy to cure masturbation (Ehrenreich and English, 1978).

Beginning in the late nineteenth century and extending into the 1970s, circumcisions in

America were also used to assist women who lacked an orgasmic response from missionary sex

with their spouse (Webber, 2003). Doctors believed women who had difficulty achieving an

orgasm had a tight clitoral hood, which could be fixed with surgery. Elting and Isenberg (1976)

noted that up to 10 % of women "found relief in female circumcision" (as cited in Webber,

2003). Webber notes, "Female circumcision, whether used to suppress sexual behavior or to

promote it, was an operation used to direct female sexual desire toward sex with a man, namely

her husband... Circumcision surgically directed women's sexual behavior. Sexual energy not

specifically addressed toward one' s husband was considered deviant (p.66)." Into the 1970s,

3,000 circumcisions were performed in the United States, and their costs were covered by Blue

Cross Insurance until 1977 (Watson, 2005).









The International Consumption of Female Circumcision and Western Interventions

Many western countries have spoken out against the consumption of female circumcision

without adequate knowledge of the history, significance, or prevalence of the procedure. Without

understanding the fundamental reasons for the consumption of female circumcision or the

prevalence of consumption, no changes will successfully be made. For example, Egypt has one

of the highest rates of female circumcision in Africa. As a result, they have encountered

significant international pressure to eliminate the practice. Egypt has been forced to conform to

international desires for financial reasons; the United States began refusing financial aid to

countries that had not yet taken steps to eradicate female circumcision. According to Boyle

(2002), "states in countries where [female circumcision] occurred would have to develop policies

to eliminate the practice or face reductions in foreign aid from the International Monetary Fund

and the World Bank" (p. 5). Furthermore, in 1995, the United Nations declared female

circumcision a violation of women' s rights (Newland, 2006). In 1998, the United Nations

launched a campaign to eradicate female circumcision worldwide (Newland). Because Egypt is

highly dependent on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for resources, they

were unable to evade the persistent pressure from the international community and the Egyptian

health minister was forced to forbid female circumcision in government medical facilities

(Boyle, 2002).

It is because of this external pressure that the Egyptian government' s attempts to

eradicate female circumcision have not been successful. Without acknowledging the importance

of the tradition to many Egyptians, the government has passed laws prohibiting the custom.

Because of this, the legislation in Egypt banning the practice of female circumcision has driven

the custom underground (Lightfoot-Klein, 1989). As Boyle (2002) explains, "Egypt is one nation

caught between contradictory perspectives towards [female circumcision]. The Egyptian case









highlights the fact that national policy making does not simply mirror local values or conflicts"

(p. 2). National policy-making, as it applies to Egypt is therefore an interplay between local and

international considerations (Boyle). Boyle also points out that if local laws were merely

reflections of the desires of citizens, laws would be passed ensuring the safe implementation of

female circumcision. In contrast, the laws in Egypt have banned the practice, proving that these

new laws against female circumcision are not reflecting the desires of Egyptian citizens.

The consumption of female circumcision has reached beyond borders and is occurring

more frequently within the international community. The US has used its authority over the

World Bank and the Intemnational Monetary Fund as leverage to eradicate what they believe to

be an immoral tradition. These sorts of financial threats do resemble colonialism, especially

because Egypt (and many other countries) depends on financial aid from the World Bank and the

International Monetary Fund. Any people would feel threatened when their culture is vilified,

and Egyptians are no exception. The Egyptian government is trapped between threats of reducing

financial aid and upholding the customs of their people. Despite the United State' s perceived

good intentions, their intervention in Egypt' s customs has only led to more tensions within

Egypt.

Concluding Remarks

The practice of female circumcision is a complex procedure with a complicated past.

With its increasing prevalence in the international community, understanding the procedure is

essential. When Westemners vilify the procedure, they also vilify and isolate circumcised women.

Chapter 2 will explain the various laws and policies the United States has enacted regarding

female circumcision within its own borders. Chapters 3 through 5 will explain some of the

problems outlawing the procedure have created.









CHAPTER 2
UNITED STATES LEGISLATION RELATING TO FEMALE CIRCUMCISION

( lue, is in attitudes and behavior of immigrants concerning [female
circumcision/ cannot be viewed as a separate problem from the rest of the
community...[female circumcision/ should be seen as an issue that is addressed by
involving the whole community.
-Williams, Acosta, and McPherson, 1999, p. 51

Federal Legislation

In 1994, the World Health Organization declared that female circumcision had become a

public health issue in the United States (Bashir, 1997). As was noted in Chapter 1, the Secretary

of Health and Human Services estimated that approximately 168,000 girls and women (mostly

from Africa) in the United States were with or at risk for female circumcision (Rahman &

Toubia, 2001). As a result of increasing immigration, the United States government enacted

federal legislation in regard to female circumcision. The Federal government enacted this

legislation under Section 1 16 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility

Act of 1996. It reads as follows:

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), whoever knowingly circumcises, excises, or
infibulates the whole or any part of the labia maj ora or labia minora or clitoris of another
person who has not attained the age of 18 years shall be fined under this title or
imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

(b) A surgical operation is not a violation of this section if the operation is--

(1) necessary to the health of the person on whom it is performed, and is
performed by a person licensed in the place of its performance as a medical
practitioner; or
(2) performed on a person in labor or who has just given birth and is performed
for medical purposes connected with that labor or birth by a person licensed in the
place it is performed as a medical practitioner, midwife, or person in training to
become such a practitioner or midwife.

(c) In applying subsection (b)(1), no account shall be taken of the effect on the person on
whom the operation is to be performed of any belief on the part of that person, or any
other person, that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.









In this Act, Congress deemed female circumcision to constitute a criminal act prohibited by law.

Furthermore, anyone, other than a medical practitioner, midwife, or person in training to become

such a practitioner or midwife, who performs the surgery for any reason other than for medical

purposes will be fined and/or imprisoned for up to five years.

State Legislations

In addition to the United Stated federal legislation, 18 states have passed some sort of

legislation making female circumcision illegal. In general, most states define female

circumcision as the act of knowingly circumcising, excising, or infibulating any part of the labia

majoera, labia minora or clitoris of another person for nonmedical purposes. The states differ

slightly in the age at which circumcision is illegal. Of the 18 states criminalizing female

circumcision, 7 states criminalize female circumcision for women under the age of 18. Five

states (Illinois, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Tennessee) prohibit female circumcision upon all

women, including those over 18 years of age (Rahman & Toubia, 2001). Five states (California,

Colorado, Minnesota, New York, and Oregon) have additional provisions for educational

outreach to immigrant communities.

Of the 18 states criminalizing female circumcision, sixteen states define female

circumcision as a felony. One state (Minnesota) leaves the punishment and crime category of

female circumcision up to the judge and reads, "judges should exercise their discretion by

assigning an offense a severity level which they believe to be appropriate" (MINN. STAT. (

609.2245, 2005). Four states (Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Illinois) define and punish

female circumcision as a form of child abuse. All eighteen states criminalize the performer of

female circumcision.

Ten of the 18 states criminalizing female circumcision take into consideration that girls

are circumcised as a result of their culture. These state legislation, like the federal legislation,










argue that no account shall be taken of the belief on the part of any individual that the operation

is required as a matter of custom or ritual.

Until 2006, there had been no prosecutions of female circumcision in the United States.

In 2006, Khalid Adem, an Ethopian immigrant, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and five

years of probation for cutting off his 2-year-old daughter' s clitoris with a pair of scissors in 2001.

He was convicted of aggravated battery and cruelty to children. He was arrested in Georgia

which, at the time, had no provision against female circumcision. He also received a fine in the

amount of $5,000, with an additional $32 a month for a probation and supervision fee (Brock,

2002). After Adem's arrest, Georgia passed a law making female circumcision a felony with a

minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years (Mungin, 2006; GA. CODE

ANN. @ 16-5-27, 2006).

Other Legislations

In 1991, the American Medical Association (AMA) declared its opposition to all forms of

"medically unnecessary surgical modification of female genitalia" (American Medical

Association, 1991, as cited in Rahman & Toubia, 2001, p.239). The AMA characterized female

circumcision as a form of child abuse. The AMA advised doctors to provide "culturally sensitive

counseling to inform the patient and to refer patients to social support groups" (Rahman &

Toubia, p.239).

In 1993, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) began working on

prevention strategies for female circumcision in Egypt and in other countries where circumcision

is regularly practiced. Prevention strategies included data collection, support for local

organizations working to eliminate the practice, and the training of medical providers and

community based health workers on methods for dealing with the consequences of female

circumcision (Rahman & Toubia, 2001, p.240).









The United States Congress has also passed three other measures relating to female

circumcision. First, Congress passed a law requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services

to undertake a study of female circumcision in the United States to determine who was at risk.

Congress told the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to "compile data on the

number of females living in the United States who have been subj ect 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 subj ect to such mutilation" (Congress, 1996

as cited in Jones et al., 1997). The DHHS commissioned the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

to carry out the study to determine the prevalence of female circumcision in the United States

(Rahman & Toubia, 2001). The CDC used data from the 1990 U.S. Census and estimated that

there were approximately 168,000 girls and women in the United States who were "with or at

risk for FC/FGM" (as cited in Rahman & Toubia, 2001). Furthermore, they estimated that 45 %

of women who were "with or at risk for FC/FGM" lived in 11 metropolitan areas (Jones et al.,

1997). Sixty-five percent of the estimated number of girls under 18 with or potentially at risk for

female circumcision lived in 3 5 metropolitan areas in the US; 72 % of these girls were born in

the US (Jones et al., 1997).

In addition to studying the prevalence of female circumcision in the U.S., the Secretary of

DHHS was also required to provide educational outreach programs for communities with at-risk

populations (Rahman & Toubia, 2001). Furthermore, the DHHS was required to develop and

distribute recommendations for students in medical and osteopathic schools on how to work with

circumcised women (Rahman & Toubia).

Second, as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of

1996, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was required to provide information to










immigrants and nonimmigrant from countries where female circumcision is common. The

information included the health and legal consequences of practicing female circumcision in the

Unites States (Rahman & Toubia, 2001). The legislation required that information be presented

to the immigrants in a culturally appropriate manner (Rahman & Toubia). Strangely, however,

the topic of female circumcision is a taboo topic in most countries and bringing it up in any

context would be inappropriate. Eyega and Conneely (1997) note, "our respondents indicate that

circumcision is a very sensitive and private subj ect, and discussion is frowned upon and

considered disrespectful to the whole community, so women are not only embarrassed by such

questions but also do not want to embarrass their families and communities" (pp.177- 178).

Therefore, it is difficult to determine to what extent this information has impacted immigrants. In

addition, a simple pamphlet will likely not have the capacity to deter immigrants from practicing

female circumcision.

The most current legislation against female circumcision was passed in 1997. Congress

enacted legislation requiring the U. S. executive directors of international financial institutions to

oppose non-humanitarian loans to countries where female circumcision was practiced and whose

governments had not implemented any educational programs to prevent the practice (Rahman &

Toubia, 2001, p.239).

Is Legislation Enough or Too Much?

Despite efforts to be "culturally sensitive" to immigrant' s culture, legislation in the

United States remains culturally naive. As Williams et al. (1999) noted, "whenever a government

prohibits the practice of FGM, whether in the country of origin or in the other European

countries to which groups immigrate, the practice continues, but in greater secrecy. This is

mainly because those formulating the legislation and prevention strategies ignore the rationale

for the practice" (p.48). The Research, Action & Information Network for Bodily Integrity of









Women (RAINB S), an international advocacy organization, noted that the "well-being and

status of entire communities could be threatened by the overzealous investigation and

prosecution of immigrant groups believed to practice [FGM/FC]." Furthermore, RAINB i raised

the concern that "broad criminal prohibitions run the risk of driving [the] practice underground

or the growth of an overseas travel industry to provide services" (RAINB i', 1997, as cited in

Jones et al., 1997, p.376). Similarly, Williams et al. (1999) noted that because of the

criminalization of female circumcision, many circumcised women might not seek medical

assistance for complications resulting from the practice.

Williams et al. (1999) explained that the rationales for female circumcision "cannot

merely be explained in terms of 'culture' or 'tradition', because that implies that people follow

these rationales without conscious reasoning when in reality, complex decision making processes

are involved" (p.50). Western culture and law cannot merely be instilled into immigrants coming

from countries practicing female circumcision. Williams, et al. believed, "if female genital

mutilation is to be prevented in the U. S., an understanding of the immigrant groups' cultural

rationales for this practice must be researched and acknowledged when planning prevention

strategies" (p. 48). Similarly, Jones et al. (1997) believed that to successfully eradicate the

practice of female circumcision in the United States, policies must involve the immigrant

communities themselves. For example, the DHHS was attempting to set up "town meetings"

with immigrant communities across the country for purposes of developing education and

outreach programs (Jones et al., 1997). Eyega and Conneely (1997) noted, "since circumcision is

carried out with the best intention for the child within the cultural context, this criminalization

without education will not lead to a change in attitude, and may serve to disrupt families already

struggling in a new country" (p.178).









The DHHS was forming recommendations for the education of health professionals by

reviewing existing medical curricula (Jones et al., 1997). Eyega and Conneely (1997) believed

that training and educating healthcare professionals is a crucial step in decreasing the prevalence

of female circumcision within immigrant groups in the United States. Healthcare professionals

need education regarding the physical and mental health consequences and clinical management

of female circumcision as well as counseling guidelines, interdepartmental linkages, referrals and

integrated service delivery, and the provision of translators and information in African languages

(Eyega and Conneely).

Eyega and Conneely (1997) found that it was not uncommon for women to feel that their

circumcision defined who they were once they immigrated to the United States:

many women only begin to think about what their circumcision means to them upon
immigration to a new country where the practice is not the norm... African women
believe that a narrow focus on one part of the anatomy obj ectifies and disempowers them,
so [American] physicians need to see them as full human beings, not merely as
'circumcised patients'. (p.178)

Furthermore, circumcised immigrants often feel that westerners belittle their status and culture.

Eyega and Conneely explained, "many [circumcised] women obj ect to their portrayal as

'victims' as well as to the attitude of western feminists involved in this issue, who, they believe,

want to define their oppression for them and then liberate them from it" (p.178). Similarly,

Watson (2005) noted, "while [American anti-circumcision legislation] are touted as

representing a serious American response to an international human rights issue affecting

women, many African women living in this country who are concerned about and connected to

the targeted communities have had their voices excluded" (p.434). More worrisome, William et

al. (1999) believed that the criminalization of female circumcision would prevent many










immigrants from seeking medical assistance for any complications they may have because of

their circumcision.

Eyega and Conneely (1997) found that many of the circumcised African immigrants in

the United States exhibited fear of the American laws against circumcision, but did not change

their attitude towards circumcision. Eyega and Conneely noted, "some of the respondents

support FC/FGM, and said they would circumcise their daughters if there were no legal

repercussions, to honor tradition and to keep their daughters from becoming promiscuous in a

sexually unrestricted society" (p. 178). Because of this mindset, Eyega and Conneely believed

that merely criminalizing female circumcision in the U.S. would have no effect. They propose

that educating immigrants about the procedure will better deter them from circumcising their

own daughters in the U.S.. Watson (2005) most adequately explained the situation of anti-

circumcision laws in the United States:

criminalizing, on its surface, seems a justifiable response for practices that are thought to
harm or maim another. Nevertheless, the history of criminalizing, particularly of cultural
practices, tends to divert the practice underground, and therefore, lead to more rather than
less concerns. Criminalization of such practices is also seen as paternalistic--one
society's attempts to evaluate their own practices as the correct or moral ones and negate
another culture's practices as lesser or immoral. Statutes requiring educational initiatives
rather than criminalization initiatives might be the most appropriate compromise. (p.435)

As was noted in earlier in the case of the United States' financial threats to Egypt, understanding

rather than vilifying the procedure and circumcised women is key when instituting legislation

regarding the practice. Without this, interventions will likely remain unsuccessful.









CHAPTER 3:
FEMALE CIRCUMCISION AND ASYLUM IN THE UNITED STATES

I asked her if she would want this tradition continued on her daughters. She
replied, "-;Seve1. Asked if she were sent back to Sudandddd~~~~~~~dddddd "Could anyone do
this to them? She responded, "Yes. They would takettttt~~~~~~~tttttt them when I wasn't
home. "Who would?, I inquired. "Mly grandmother, she replied.
-Anonymous Health Care Provider, 2002 as cited in Oxford, 2005, p.28

Brief Overview of Asylum Law in the United States

Throughout the years, United States asylum laws have been modified through a series of

international and national policies and laws. Many of these laws and policies have influenced

cases regarding women seeking asylum in the United States. Seven, in particular, have been

frequently cited in these asylum cases. First, in 1954, the United Nations approved the

Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The convention defined who was a refugee and

outlined who should be granted asylum. Act 1 of the convention defined a refugee as a person

who had a "well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality,

membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his

nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of

that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former

habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to

return to it." Furthermore, Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act guaranteed alien

refugees' asylum in the United States, provided that the refugee show well-founded fear of

persecution on account of their "race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social

group, or political opinion" (p.195).

Third, in the 1985 Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decision Matter ofAcosta (1985

BIA LEXIS 2; 19 I. & N. Dec. 21 1), "persecution on account of membership in a particular

social group" referred to persecution directed toward an individual who was a member of a










group of persons sharing a common, immutable characteristic. Such characteristics are either

beyond the power of the individual members of the group to change or are so fundamental to

their identities or consciences that it ought not be required to be changed.

Also of importance is the Refugee Act of 1980. The act is a federal law that reformed

United States immigration law to admit refugees for humanitarian reasons. The act also

introduced national legal standards for adjudicating refugee and asylum claims based on the

definition of a refugee found in the Immigration and Nationality Act, outlined above (Oxford,

2005).

Fifth, in 1987, the Supreme Court ruled in INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987),

that an asylum applicant need not show that it is more probable than not that he or she would be

persecuted if they returned to their home country. Furthermore, the court in this case noted, "One

can certainly have a well-founded fear of an event happening when there is less than a 50%

chance of the occurrence taking place." INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987).

Sixth, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act was passed in

1996 requiring an applicant to apply for asylum within one year of their entry into the United

States. If an applicant failed to apply within one year, they were barred from doing so unless they

could establish changed or exceptional circumstances.

Lastly, and of importance in asylum cases regarding female circumcision, the United

Nations passed the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading

Treatment or Punishment in 1987. The Convention stated the term 'torture' meant "any act by

which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a

person... for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is

inflicted... with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an









official capacity." Article 3 of this convention stated, "No State Party shall expel, return

('refouler') or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for

believing that he would be in danger of being subj ected to torture."

Influential Asylum Cases

There have been very few asylum cases in the United States regarding female

circumcision. Fauziya Kasinga had the first successful asylum case in the United States in 1996.

The second successful asylum case, for Adelaide Abankwah, was two years later in 1999. The

four following cases are a few of the most important asylum cases regarding female circumcision

in the United States and have paved the path for future cases.

In re Kasinga (1996)

Fauziya Kasinga, a 19-year-old native and citizen of Togo, fled Togo before she was

forced to undergo circumcision. Her husband in Togo was well known in the country and was a

friend of the police. She feared the Togolese police could locate her in Togo or in countries

surrounding Togo, specifically Ghana where she initially fled. She traveled to Germany from

Ghana where she bought a fraudulent passport. With the passport, she fled to the United States,

where she immediately requested asylum.

In this case, the court established that female circumcision could be the basis for a claim

of persecution. The court believed there were six main points as to why Kasinga should be

granted asylum based on her fear of circumcision. First, the court found Kasinga to be a credible

witness. The court established that her testimony as to what had led her to the United States

"reasonably could have happened to a teenage girl in the applicant's situation." Second, female

circumcision, as practiced in her tribe in Togo, constituted persecution. The court recognized that

"persecution can consist of the infliction of harm or suffering by a government, or persons a

government is unwilling or unable to control, to overcome a characteristic of the victim." Third,









Kasinga was a member of a social group consisting of young women who were members of a

specific tribe in Togo who have not been circumcised and who opposed the practice. Fourth,

Kasinga had a well-founded fear of persecution based on a "reasonable person" standard. Fifth,

the persecution Kasinga feared was on account of her social group. Sixth, Kasinga' s fear of

persecution was country-wide. The court established Kasinga would be unable to avoid

circumcision by moving to some other part of Togo. Furthermore, Togo is a small country and

the police would not protect her.

Based on Kasinga' s testimony and knowledge of Togo, the court found that (1) female

circumcision was widely practiced in Togo; (2) acts of violence and abuse against women in

Togo are tolerated by the police; (3) the Government of Togo had a poor human rights record;

and (4) most African women could expect little governmental protection from female

circumcision. The court concluded that female circumcision was a form of "persecution" that

could entitle a woman to political asylum in at least some cases. In Kasinga' s case, since the

above six points were met, she was granted asylum.

Abankwah v. INS (1999)

Adelaide Abankwah, a 29-year-old native and citizen of Ghana, argued that she should be

granted asylum based on her fear that her tribe would circumcise her as punishment for having

engaged in premarital sex. She felt that members of her tribe would continue to search for her

since she had "sinned against their God." She did not believe anyone in Ghana could protect her

from the tribal authorities that would force her to be circumcised. For this reason, she bought a

falsified passport and fled to the United States. She was apprehended upon her arrival at John F.

Kennedy Airport an imprisoned.

Abankwah petitioned for review or order of deportation and denial of asylum by BIA.

The Immigration Judge denied her request because he believed she had failed to establish that









her fear of circumcision as punishment for her lack of virginity was obj ectively reasonable. The

Judge described Abankwah's situation as a "personal problem" rather than a "matter of general

practice imposed upon a particular social group." The Judge believed that because female

circumcision was criminalized in Ghana in 1994, Abankwah would be able to seek protection

from the Ghanaian government and from non-governmental institutions.

The appeals court ruled that the BIA "was too exacting both in quantity and quality of

evidence that it required." The court cited Melendez, 926 F.2d at 215: "In the absence of

documentary proof, the applicant' s testimony will be enough if it is credible, persuasive, and

refers to specific facts that give rise to an inference that the applicant has been or has good

reason to fear that he or she will be singled out for persecution." In her testimony, Abankwah

said that she did not believe that the government of Ghana could or would prevent her tribe from

circumcising her. She also said that she did not know that the government had outlawed female

circumcision since "people are still practicing it."

Abay v. Ashcroft (2004)

Yayeshwork Abay and Burhan Amare, both natives and citizens of Ethiopia, sought

refugee status in the United States based on fear of female circumcision. Abay, mother of nine-

year-old Amare, was circumcised at a young age. Abay's mother had already attempted to

circumcise Amare and Abay believed she would not be able to override Amare's future husband

or in-law' s wishes to circumcise Amare.

The court noted, "females who live in a culture where female genital mutilation is the

norm and who do not undergo the procedure will be persecuted, subj ected to ostracism, and

considered unworthy of marriage" (p.6). Furthermore, the court found "Abay's fear of taking her

daughter into the lion' s den of female genital mutilation in Ethiopia and being forced to witness










the pain and suffering of her daughter is well-founded" (p.8). As a result, both Amare and' Abay

were granted refugee status.

Mohamed v. Gonzales (2005)

Khadij a Ahmed Mohamed, a native and citizen of Somalia, fled Somalia during the civil

war with her family. She sought to reopen her asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention

Against Torture ("CAT") claims on the basis of her first attorney's failure to present evidence

that she suffered female circumcision in the past and could constitute past persecution and

torture. Mohamed had her clitoris and prepuce cut off when she was a child.

Because Mohamed had previously been circumcised, in order to be granted asylum, she

must establish eligibility for asylum on the basis of past persecution. To do so, the courts argued

Mohamed "must show: (1) an incident... that rise[s] to the level of persecution; (2) that [wa]s

'on account of' one of the statutorily-protected grounds; and (3) [wa]s committed by the

government or forces the government is either 'unable or unwilling' to control" (Navas v. INS,

217 F.3d 646, 655-56 (9th Cir. 2000), as cited in Mohammed v. Gonzales, p.3077). The court

agreed that female circumcision could constitute past persecution: "in sum, the extremely

painful, physically invasive, psychologically damaging and permanently disfiguring process of

genital mutilation undoubtedly rises to the level of persecution" (p.3080).

The court argued that although females as a social group had never been previously

recognized, the "recognition that girls or women of a particular clan or nationality (or even in

some circumstances females in general) may constitute a social group is simply a logical

application of our law" (p.3082). The court explained, "there is little question that genital

mutilation occurs to a particular individual because she is a female" (p.3083).

The court also disagreed with the BIA' s ruling that Mohamed could not be eligible for

asylum because she had already suffered circumcision and therefore, "there is not chance that









she would be personally tortured again by the procedure" (p.3084). The appeals court held that

female circumcision, like forced sterilization, "must be considered a continuing harm that

renders a petitioner eligible for asylum" (p.3085). The court continued, "like forced sterilization,

genital mutilation permanently disfigures a woman, causes long term health problems, and

deprives her of a normal and fulfilling sexual life" (p.3086).

The appeals court also explained that under the humanitarian exception, a victim of past

persecution may be granted asylum even without fear of related future persecution, if the

applicant could establish (1) compelling reasons for being unwilling or unable to return because

of the severity of the past persecution, or (2) a reasonable possibility that she may suffer other

serious harm upon returning to that country. The court argued Mohamed could establish both--

female circumcision is a particularly sever form of past persecution because of its many

continuing side effects, and Mohamed's clan in Somalia had been decimated by violence,

specifically towards females, which leaves Mohamed at risk for further harm.

Lastly, the appeals court established that Mohamed's claim for protection under the

Convention Against Torture was possible: "In light of Mohamed' s past experience with female

genital mutilation and the widespread practice of mutilating females in Somalia, the possibility

of related harm occurring in the future, and the overall human rights conditions in Somalia,

Mohamed may well be able to demonstrate that she is entitled to relief under CAT...Mohamed

may be entitled to protection under CAT on the grounds that genital mutilation is a permanent

and continuing harm" (p.3091).

Significance of Female Circumcision Asylum Cases

There are several reasons why these asylum cases have been significant milestones in

United States asylum law. First, these cases are the first to use asylum provisions for cultural

rather than strictly political human rights issues (Gruenbaum, 2001). Second, Kasinga' s asylum










case was the first to recognize "women" as a social group; it was the first successful gender-

based asylum case in the United States (Gunning, 1999). This step is an important one for

asylum law because many women flee their countries for gender-related reasons such as rape,

sexual torture, sexual mutilation, sexual discrimination, abortion, and forced sterilization (Abu-

Sahlieh, 2001). The recognition of women as a social group will serve many women, not only

women escaping circumcision.

In general, the success of these asylum cases has enabled many other women from

countries practicing female circumcision to also seek asylum. The Immigration and

Naturalization Service (INS) was concerned that if Kasinga were granted asylum, another eighty

million African women would also become eligible (Boyle, 2002). The INS went so far to

caution the BIA that "the Board... cannot simply grant asylum to all who might be subj ected to a

practice deemed obj ectionable or a violation of a person' s human rights" (In re Kasinga, as cited

in Boyle, 2002, p. 110). The court in Mohamed's case established that female circumcision

constituted persecution, and as a result was grounds for asylum.









CHAPTER 4
CONCLUSIONS

Every age, every culture, every custom and tradtiont~r~rt~r~rt~r~rt~ has its own character,
its own weakness and its own \roenlgth, its beauties and cruelties; it accepts
certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently 0 ithr certain evils.
Human hife is reduced to real \uffrei ing~. to hell, only when two ages, two
cultures and religions overlap.
-Hermann Hesse

This thesis has covered many new problems the United States government faces

regarding immigration and the customs of female circumcision. Possible solutions for these

problems seem, at first glance are monumental. To implement effective strategies for resolving

problems associated with circumcising, policy makers must begin by understanding and being

sensitive to the traditions that prescribe the practice. Possible policy implications will be

discussed in the reminder of this thesis.

Legislation Implications

The last part of Chapter 2 discussed the problems with anti-circumcision legislation in the

United States. Among these is the problem that by outlawing female circumcision, entire

immigrant communities have been isolated. Furthermore, anti-circumcision legalization runs the

risk of driving the practice underground. Many women may not seek medical assistance from

complications resulting from their circumcision for fear of disapproval.

Although a few states have enacted educational legislation, more educational programs

must be made available to immigrants coming from countries with high rates of female

circumcision and to those already living in at risk communities in the U.S. Steps have been made

to educate health professionals about complications associated with female circumcision. These

steps should continue. A study in New York conducted by Eyega and Conneely (1997) found

that 87% of health care providers (including nurse-midwives, physicians, registered nurses,

resident physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician's assistants) reported having knowledge of









female circumcision gained mostly through patient contact (76%). However, only 50% of these

respondents had learned of female circumcision through medical j ournals. Only 29% learned of

the procedure through training and only 17% learned of it through conferences. It is clear

through these statistics that more emphasis needs to be placed on training medical professionals

about how to handle female circumcision. Familiarity with female circumcision should not

derive solely from patient contact. Medical professionals should learn of the procedure before

encountering it in their practices.

Asylum Law Implications

The progress of asylum law in the United States regarding female circumcision has not

only been a huge step for immigrant populations, but for women as a social group as well. There

is no doubt this progress has been substantial, but further improvements in asylum law are

necessary. This is not to say that all forms of female circumcision are "wrong." United States'

law should represent, to the best of its abilities, global human rights. If female immigrants are

seeking refuge in the United States because they do not want to be circumcised, United States'

asylum law should protect these rights. Furthermore, as part of the United Nations, the U. S. has

an obligation to protect human rights. This creates a dilemma for the U.S. How can the U.S.

protect human rights while still being culturally sensitive? There is no easy or simple solution to

this conundrum. However, advances in asylum law, like the ones outlined in Chapter 3, help

alleviate this problem.

Last, it is necessary to solidify women as a "social group" in the Refugee Act of 1980.

The Refugee Act of 1980 currently defines a refugee as one who can show well-founded fear of

persecution on account of their "race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social

group, or political opinion" (p.195). It is important that this definition also include gender. More










generally, it is important for United States' asylum law to recognize female circumcision as

grounds for asylum.

The Value of Language

"Words, when well chosen, have so great a force in them that a description often gives us more
lively ideas than the sight of things themselves"
-Joseph Addison, 1712

The importance of language in society is undeniable. Language and words allow humans

to communicate and understand one another. Words help explain things; their sole purpose is to

carry meaning. Anthropologist Marvin Harris explained, "human languages are unique among

communication systems in possessing semantic universality... A communication system that has

semantic universality can convey information about all aspects, domains, properties, places, or

events in the past, present or future, whether actual or possible, real or imaginary" (as cited in

Wilden 1987, 138). Emile Benveniste noted, "language is the interpreting system of all other

systems, linguistic and non-linguistic" (p.239). Because of the significance of language in

conveying information, attaching negative or positive- sounding words to certain practices or

traditions can often result in the development of preconceived notions about the practice.

Many different terminologies have been used to explain female circumcision. Female

genital mutilation, female genital cutting, female genital modifications, female genital

operations, and female genital surgeries are commonly used to denote the same practice. Female

genital mutilation has become more widely accepted since the 1990s (Gruenbaum, 2001).

However, for most people, the term "mutilation" implies intentional harm with evil intent

(Gruenbaum). Many African scholars and feminists have argued that the term female genital

mutilation is ethnocentric (Boyle, 2002). Furthermore, using female genital mutilation implies

that all female circumcisions are mutilating, which is not the case. For instance, some of the less

sever forms of female circumcision have no long term health consequences and inflict no real










damage to the woman's genitalia. Likewise, using the term female circumcision has its

inadequacies. The word "circumcision", to many, seems to trivialize the practice by linking it to

male circumcision. This paper has used the term female circumcision in order to avoid any bias

or evil connotations the term "mutilation" brings with it. Furthermore, it the term female

circumcision seems to hold the least negative implications.

Many problems have arisen in the United States when legislation makers and researchers

attach the term "female genital mutilation" to the practice. It is important for researches and

legislation makers to choose terminology carefully; the expression chosen often denotes a

standpoint on the issue and may ostracize many people. For instance, while researching female

circumcision, Gruenbaum (2001) noted, "some of my Sudanese friends have been deeply

offended by the term [female genital mutilation], and it is their reaction as much as the

connotations of that term that have influenced my preference for the term... female

circumcision" (p.3). By subscribing a negative term to explain female circumcision, US

legislation makers are researchers have not only vilified the tradition, but have also isolated and

offended many circumcised immigrants.

Ferdinand de Saussure (1910) spent much of his career researching and explaining the

value or words and terms. He postulated that words are completely interconnected with the

society in which they are spoken: "the faculty of articulating words is put to use only by means

of the linguistic instrument created and provided by society" (p. 11). Furthermore, he noted, "a

community is necessary in order to establish values. Values have no other rationale than usage

and general agreement. An individual, acting alone, is incapable of establishing value" (p. 112).

Language is a social product--it presupposes the collectivity. Language is a system of signs that

express ideas; this system is fixed by an agreement between members of a given society. The










sign (or signifier) is arbitrary--there is no natural reason why certain signs are attached to certain

concepts (signified). For instance, if signs were inextricably bound to a concept, there would be

equivalent signs for all things in all languages. However, this is not the case. For instance, we

refer to the practice of female circumcision in the United States many ways. The Arabic word for

the practice is tahara, tihar, or tuhur. Tahur is usually translated as purificationn" and connotes

the achievement of cleanliness through a ritual activity (Gruenbaum, 2001). The signifier

attached to the signified is a result of social agreement. Researchers and activists have reached

no agreement about the practice--this problem surfaces when the social world attempts to settle

issues on paper that have no been settled in reality. The values of the different terms denoting the

same practice lay within the society doing the defining. Society assigns values by attaching

signifiers to the signified. Because the "value" of female circumcision in the United States has

not been settled, there are many signifiers to define the practice. Which signifier we choose to

use as individuals places us in a camp of like-minded people, but the signifier itself is merely an

arbitrary way of articulating ourselves. Like Saussure explains, "a language is a system of pure

values, determined by nothing else apart from the temporary state of its constituent elements"

(p.80).

The Significance of "Cultural Practices"

The significance of what we deem to be a "cultural practice" is important when we

attempt to analyze traditions such as female circumcision. Merriam-Webster dictionary (1999)

defines "culture" as the "customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious,

or social group." The same dictionary defines "practice" as a "customary action." Alexander

(1990) explained the complexities inherent in culture and society:

we cannot understand culture without reference to subj ective meaning, and we cannot
understand it without reference to social structure constraints. We cannot interpret social
behavior without acknowledging that it follows codes that it does not invent; at the same










time, human intervention creates a changing environment for every cultural code.
Inherited metaphysical ideas form an inextricable web for modern social structures, yet
powerful groups often succeed in transforming cultural structures into legitimating
means. (p.26).

Alexander goes onto explain the society and culture are complex affairs. In regard to female

circumcision, the tradition is so deeply embedded in culture that many complexities arise when

trying to legislate against it. Furthermore, the tradition of female circumcision did not derive

from nothing--the practice has roots and reasons fixed within the culture. Without

acknowledging these and understanding the subjective meaning for the practice, outsiders

(Western feminists and legislation makers) will never fully understand what the tradition means

to these cultures.

The concept of "cultural practices" has influenced our legislative and judicial ways of

thinking of female circumcision. As was notes above, the United States is attempting to settle

something on paper that has not yet been settled in reality. The significance and morality of

female circumcision has not been settled in our society, and as a result there is still a tremendous

amount of disagreement about how the United States should handle this cultural practice. The

significance of female circumcision as cultural practice becomes increasingly important when

the West is forced to make judgment calls about it. For instance, in the case of granting refugees

asylum, the United States must define some cultural practices as human rights violations eligible

for asylum under the Refugee Act of 1980. Other cultural practices, such as human sacrifice,

cannibalism, polygamy, or consumption of dog meet have established a general consensus

among United States citizens; most US citizens have agreed these things are immoral. Because

we have settled these issues in reality, we are able to settle them on paper with little or no debate.

Still, there is a dilemma in categorizing some cultural practices as moral and legal and labeling

others as immoral and illegal. Gruenbaum (2001) explained this dilemma, "if these practices are









based on deeply held cultural values and traditions, can outsiders effectively challenge them

without challenging the cultural integrity of the people who practice them?" (p.25). This

dilemma brings to the forefront some interesting issues, one of which will be discussed below.

The issue of multiculturalism arises from this dilemma and is an important issue to

discuss. Multiculturalism is the view that all cultures are equal in value. Although this view

sounds appealing, there have been many critiques of it. For instance, Okin (1999) posed the

question, "what should be done when the claims of minority cultures or religions clash with the

norm of gender equality that is at least formally endorsed by liberal states" (p. 1)? Okin argued

that many cultural practices "make it virtually impossible for women to choose to live

independently of men, to be celibate or lesbian, or not to have children" (p.4). She explained,

"but perhaps the primary concern is that, by failing to protect women and sometimes children of

minority cultures from male and sometimes maternal violence, cultural defenses violate their

rights to the equal protection of the laws" (p.8). Once foreigners immigrate to the United States,

their culture is no longer a legitimate defense for behaving in certain ways; ignorance of or

disagreement with US law is not a valid excuse for breaking it. The view of multiculturalism is

more lenient on this point; if all cultures are equal, then all cultural practices have something

unique and important to add to society. For example, Horrace Kallen believed that "individuality

was enhanced when each individual functioned both as a member of his ethnic-cultural group

and as a member of the larger American society that embraced all the divergent ethnic cultural

groups within the United States" (Ratner, 1984, p.187). Kallen did not refer to the United States

as a melting-pot, but rather as an orchestra, "with each instrument linked to a cultural group

making its unique contribution to the symphony of civilization" (Ratner, p. 187). As the United

States faces increasing immigration, and as a result, increased diversity in cultural practices, this









view must be analyzed more stringently. What cultural practices add value to American society?

What cultural practices are in opposition with American laws and morals? Where do American

legislatures draw the line between cultural respect and limiting cultural freedom? These are all

questions entirely relevant to the kinds of issues Americans face when attempting to conform

each culture to fit into what Kallen calls the "orchestra" of American society.

Many researchers argue that culture can serve as a valid excuse for immigrant' s behavior

and actions. Tunick (2003) poses the question, "Are there certain actions one couldn't have

helped undertaking becasue of culture (what philosophers call the inability thesis), in which case

perhaps our criminal law should permit a cultural defense?" (p.216). The inability thesis, as

Tunick (2004) explains, "holds that one's culture determines behavior and can make one unable

to comply with the law and therefore less deserving of punishment" (p.395). Ikuenobe (1998)

describes that the inability thesis allows for people being "rendered morally ignorant by their

culture" (p. 109). United States federal and state legislation have considered this point and have

included this in their code. Section C of US federal legislation outlawing female circumcision

reads, "no account shall be taken of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be

performed of any belief on the part of that person, or any other person, that the operation is

required as a matter of custom or ritual." Furthermore, most state laws include this section in

their legislation. Even if immigrant' s behavior and actions render them morally ignorant by US

standards, they are still held accountable for their actions in the case of female circumcision;

immigrants cannot circumcise their daughters on account of custom or ritual.

With increasing immigration and the current trend of globalization, America is being

forced to integrate foreign cultural practices into US law. By challenging the practice of female

circumcision by legislating against it, the US also seems to be inadvertently challenging the









cultural integrity of circumcised women. With the rising prevalence of issues relating to female

circumcision occurring in the United States, it is clear \Ilm'linehig more must be done. Female

circumcision is no longer solely a foreign "problem"--it is now a domestic "problem" that needs

settling. United States laws and policies have not been well suited, thus far, for dealing with

female circumcision within its borders. Laws and policies must find a way to be culturally

sensitive while also protecting human rights. Without attempting to do both, many immigrants

well-being may be threatened.









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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Katie Schubert attended University of California-- Irvine (UCI) as an undergraduate and

graduated with three Bachelors of Arts: anthropology, psychology, and criminology. After

graduating from UCI, she was admitted into the sociology department at the University of

Florida. As a graduate student, Katie's main focus was on female circumcision in the United

States.





PAGE 1

1 FEMALE CIRCUMCISION IN THE UNITED STATES: AN ANALYSIS OF LAWS AND POLICIES By KATIE ANN SCHUBERT A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007

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2 2007 Katie Ann Schubert

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3 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ABSTRACT....................................................................................................................... ..............4 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION................................................................................................................... .5 Types of Female Circumcision.................................................................................................5 History of Female Circumcision...............................................................................................7 Prevalence of Female Circumcision.........................................................................................9 In Africa...................................................................................................................... .......9 In Asia........................................................................................................................ .....10 In the United States.........................................................................................................11 The Medicalization of Female Circumcision in the United States.........................................13 The International Consumption of Female Circumcision and Western Interventions...........14 Concluding Remarks............................................................................................................. .15 2 UNITED STATES LEGISLATION RELA TING TO FEMALE CIRCUMCISION............16 Federal Legislation............................................................................................................ .....16 State Legislations............................................................................................................. .......17 Other Legislations............................................................................................................. ......18 Is Legislation Enough or Too Much?.....................................................................................20 3 FEMALE CIRCUMCISION AND ASYL UM IN THE UNITED STATES.........................24 Brief Overview of Asylum Law in the United States.............................................................24 Influential Asylum Cases....................................................................................................... .26 In re Kasinga (1996)........................................................................................................26 Abankwah v. INS (1999).................................................................................................27 Abay v. Ashcroft (2004)..................................................................................................28 Mohamed v. Gonzales (2005).........................................................................................29 Significance of Female Ci rcumcision Asylum Cases.............................................................30 4 CONCLUSIONS....................................................................................................................32 Legislation Implications....................................................................................................... ..32 Asylum Law Implications.......................................................................................................33 The Value of Language..........................................................................................................34 The Significance of Cultural Practices................................................................................36 LIST OF REFERENCES............................................................................................................. ..41 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................46

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4 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts FEMALE CIRCUMCISION IN THE UNITED STATES: AN ANALYSIS OF LAWS AND POLICIES By Katie Ann Schubert August 2007 Chair: Hernn Vera Major: Sociology With the recent influx of immigrants to the Un ited States, it is impor tant to analyze some of the laws and policies that a ffect them. This work focuses on United States laws and policies regarding female circumcision. Chapter 1 give s an overview of female circumcisionits definition, history, and prevalen ce throughout the world. Chapter 2 provides an overview of existing legislation in the United States in regard to female circumcision. Chapter 3 analyzes how female circumcision is affecting asylum law in the United States and provides some of the most influential female circumcision asylum cases in the U.S. Chapter 4 summarizes the main points in this work and provides possible policy implications. Fu rthermore, sociological issues are examined and applied to these finding. The analys is in this work brings to light that there may be some bias in United St ates laws and policies regarding female circumcision. Reasons for such biases must be analyzed and changes to U. S. legislation should be enacted to better address the concerns of immigrants.

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5 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION With increasing immigration, female circumcisi on is becoming an international practice. The issue of female circumcision was first raised as a matter of concern at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 1981 (Center for Reproductiv e Rights, 2004). Since then, legislation criminalizing female circumcision has been adopted in 16 countries, including nine African countries (Center for Reproductive Righ ts, 2004). Many individuals believe the practice of female circumcision is a human rights violat ion, specifically feminist groups in western nations. In the United States, female circumcisi on is often called female genital mutilation (FGM). This paper will use the lesser morally charged term, female circumcision (FC). With the practice entering the United St ates through immigration, the already controversial topic is becoming even more of a contentious subject. We stern feminists look to eradicate the procedure, not only in the West but also in the pr ocedures countries of origin. Because FC is becoming a global phenomenon, the United States has begun to address the topic with policies and law. This study will explore th ese laws and policies as well as the court cases in the United States pertaining to FC. Chapte r 1 will give a brief overview of the history, definitions, and prevalence of FC. Chapter 2 will cover federal and state laws in the United States pertaining to FC. Chapter 3 will summariz e the main cases in the United States that address granting refugees asylum based on their f ears of female circumcisi on in their country of origin. Finally, Chapter 4 will summarize possible policy implications for the United States and how they relate to seve ral sociological issues. Types of Female Circumcision There are several types of female circumcision. Type I, known as clitorectomy is the procedure when the hood of the clitoris (the prep uce) is removed, with or without the excision of

PAGE 6

6 part or all of the clitoris. This type of circumcision is the least severe and the least common (Dorkenoo and Elworthy, 1992). Type II, excision is the removal of the clitoris and all or part of the labia minora. Type III, modified infibulation is the removal of the c litoris, labia minora, and most (usually around two thirds) of the labia majora Type III is a milder form of the last, Type IV, leaving a larger posteri or opening. Type IV, known as infibulation or pharaonic circumcision, is the most common and severe form of female circumcision (Gruenbaum, 2001). This type of circumcision includes the removal of the clitoris, labia mi nora, and labia majora. The remaining parts of the labia majora are suture d together to cover the urethra and the vagina. After the last three forms of circumcision, th e girl is sutured, leaving only a small hole about the size of a matchstick for urination and me nstrual flow. When sutures are not used, other adhesive substances such as sugar, eggs, and in rare cases, animal excreta are placed on the wound to allow the formation of scar tissue (Report of Female Ge nital Mutilation, 2001). Because of the highly invasive process, the gi rls legs must be bound together and she must remain immobile for 40 days to permit the fo rmation of scar tissue (Dorkenoo and Elworthy). Once healed, the female is left with a perf ectly smooth vulva of skin and scar tissue. Reinfibulation is done after childbirth to restore the small vaginal opening. In addition to these types of circumcision, there are al so symbolic circumcision ritual s. These circumcision rituals include pricking, piercing, or incisi ng of the clitoris and/or labia; stretching of the clitoris and/or labia; cauterizing by burning of the clitori s and surrounding tissue; scraping of tissue surrounding the vaginal orifice or cutting of th e vagina; or the introduction of corrosive substances or herbs into the vagina to cause bleeding or for the pur poses of tightening or narrowing it (Abu-Sahlieh, 2001).

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7 The circumcision of the female is usually done without anesthetic. Depending on the culture, a wide variety of instruments have been used; knives, razors, scissors, and sometimes even sharp stones have been used to perform th e proceduremost of which are not sterile. In many cases, several girls are circumcised duri ng a single ritual ceremony and the instrument used for the circumcision is used on a number of girls. The age at which a female will undergo circumcision varies by region, country, and community. Girls ar e usually circumcised between the ages of four and twelve, but in some culture s females are circumcised as early as a few days after birth or as late as immedi ately prior to marriage, during pr egnancy or after the first birth (Report on Female Genital Mutilation, 2001). However, there has been an overall decrease in the age at which girls are under going the practice in recent year s (Yoder et al., 2004; Report on Female Genital Mutilation, 2001). History of Female Circumcision Although the origins of female circumcision are unclear, the pract ice dates back to antiquity (Lightfoot-Klein, 1989). Herodotus, a fa mous historian, reporte d female circumcision among Egyptians, Ethiopians, Hittit es, and Phoenicians during the 5th century B.C. (LightfootKlein). In addition, many Nile Valley people who practice infi bulations believe the practice originated in the society of th e pharaohs, hence the name given to the most severe from of circumcisionpharonic circumcision (Grue nbaum, 2001). It is unknown at what time the practice became associated with virginity and chastity or religion. There are many theories as to why female circumcision continued as a custom. First, female circumcision was believed to be a way for men to gain mastery over womens sexuality. Circumcision was believed to take womens se xual freedom from them and make them the private property of their husba nds. Watson (2005) noted that si nce men would be away from their homes for long periods of time, they wanted reassurance that children born during their

PAGE 8

8 absence were their own. Most forms of circum cision allow only a small hole for urination and menstrual flow. When the woman has intercourse for the first time, her husband must cut the hole wider to allow for penetration. This hole was sewn up when the husband departed for long periods of time. In addition, slave girls in Afri ca were infibulated to k eep them from getting pregnant (Lightfoot-Klein, 1989). In ancient Egypt, girls could not marry, inherit property, or enter a mosque unless they were circumcised (Lightfoot-Klein). This was related to the Pharaonic belief in the bisexuality of the gods (Gruenbaum, 2001): humans were thought to reflect [the bisexuality of the gods] in their anatomies, with the feminine soul of the man being situated in the prepuce and the masculine soul of the woman being in the clitoris. Male circum cision and female clitoridectomy and labia removal are thus needed for one to beco me fully a man or fully a woman. (p.43) Furthermore, circumcision was intended to make a woman pure, clean, and smooth (Boddy, 1991); many who live in these cultu res find the smooth, infibulated vulva highly feminine and aesthetically pleasing (Boyle, 2002). Many countries practicing female circumcision believe their religion, specifically Islam, sanctions the practice. Egypt is predominantly Muslim; Islam being the official state religion (Boyle, 2002). One of the most prominent Islamic clerics in E gypt, Sheikh Gad el-Haqq, issued a religious decree stating that female circumcision, although not required by Islam, was a religious ritual and an honorable deed for women (Boyle, pp.3 4). Furthermore, according to the grand mufti, Fadilat Allam Bey Nassar (1951): female circumcision is an Islamic practice me ntioned in the tradition of the prophet, and sanctioned by Imams and Jurists, in spite of the difference on whethe r it is a duty or a sunna [tradition]. We support the practice as a sunna and sanction it in view of its effect on attenuating the sexual desire in women and directing it to the desirable moderation. (Quoted in Gruenbaum, 2001, p.63)

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9 Scholars of the Islamic faith deny that the reli gion condones such practic es (Gruenbaum) and it is important to note that female circumcision is in no way endorsed by any religion. Still, many Muslims use religion to legitimize the practice. Prevalence of Female Circumcision The World Health Organizati on estimated that in 2000, the number of girls and women who have undergone female circumcision was be tween 100 and 140 million. Just in Africa, it is estimated that up to 3 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt and Sudan are at risk of genital mutilation annually (Yoder et al., 2004) The topic of female circumcision is taboo in most of the cultures that practice FC. For this reason, it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics on circumcision rates. Ellen Greunbam (2001) believes that the fear of outsi ders condemnations is a large reason many people in these cultures do not talk about female circumcision: people dealing with foreigners were well advised to ke ep their female circumci sion practices quiet or, when discussed, downplay their extent (16). Th erefore, data on the prevalence of female circumcision should be analyzed with caution. In Africa Female circumcision is most common in Africa and is widespread in 28 of its countries. Female circumcision is not found in southern Afri ca or in the Arabic sp eaking nations of North Africa, with the exceptio n of Egypt (Althaus, 1997). Countries in the northeast of Africa (Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and northern S udan) have higher rates, ranging from 80 to 97 %, than countries in the eastern part of Africa (Kenya and Tan zania), ranging from 18 to 38 % (Yoder et al, 2004). The prevalence of FC at the national level among women 15-49 year s of age in African countries varies from 5 % in Niger (1998) to 99 % in Guinea (1999) (Y oder et al, 2004). Among the 15 African countries for which FC prevalence data were available by the end of 2002, 8 had prevalence levels between 71 and 99 %, and 7 were between 5 and 45 % (Yoder et al., 2004).

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10 According to Gruenbaum (2001), Somalia, Djibou ti, Egypt, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, and Eritrea contain half of the circum cised women and girls in Africa. In all countries except for the ones with pr evalence rates above 90 %, FC varies widely within countries by ethnicity (Y oder et al., 2004). For instance, prevalence may be 1 % in one ethnic group and 95 % in another within the same country (Yoder et al). The most recent Demographic and Health Su rveys on the prevalence rates of female circumcision in Africa indicated that the practice of female circumcision has changed in the past years. Data showed that girls are being circumci sed at younger ages and there is less cutting than in the past. Furthermore, there has been a trend towards the medicalization of female circumcision, specifically in Egypt (Yoder et al., 2004); females are being circumcised more often under sterile conditi ons by professionals. In Asia There are speculations, but no studies or c oncrete data, on the practice of female circumcision in Asian countries. It is thought to occur throughout the coastal areas in The Republic of Yemen and Oman, and among a small number of women in a few Bedouin tribes in south Israel. (Report on Female Genital Mutila tion, 2001). It is also believed to occur among individuals in the Bedouin tribes and residents of the Hejaz in Saudi Arabia and among a very small number of women in a few Bedouin gr oups in Israel. (Report on Female Genital Mutilation, 2001). According to Sami A. Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh ( 2001), a recent United Arab Emirates survey indicated that FC takes place in this country in secret, far fro m men, who are rarely informed about it (14). Eighty-five per cent of people questioned for an investigation re garding FC in United Arab Emirates maintained FC continued to be practiced in the country (Abu-Sahlieh).

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11 According to Abu-Sahlieh, several of his interview ees in 1999 indicated that the rate of FC was higher than 90 % in Oman. In Indonesia, the most common form of circ umcision is a symbo lic pricking, scraping or touching of the clitoris (R eport on Female Genital Mut ilation, 2001). Lynda Newland (2006), witnessed an infant girls circumcision in West Java, Indonesia. This circumcision, she wrote, included the scraping of the clito ris with a needle until the ba by began to cry. Newland went on to explain that many people in I ndonesia believe that this type of circumcision enhances a womans sexual pleasure rather than impairing it In Malaysia, Muslim groups also practice this less severe type of circumcision; a symbolic pric k, a tiny ritual cut to th e clitoris or simply brining a blade close to the clitoris (Report on Female Genital Mutilation, 2001). This type of circumcision also occurs among the Bohra Muslim s in the largest cities of Sindh and Punjab provinces in Pakistan (Report on Female Genital Mutilation, 2001). Other countries in Asia that have not been mentioned here either have a very small prevalence of FC or information is not available on the prevalence of FC w ithin the country. It is believed that Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Pa lestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey, and Iran do not practice FC (Abu-Sahlie h). However, nothing guarantees that these countries do not practice FC. There is some evid ence that the Bedouin in Jordan practiced FC in the beginning of the 19th century. The custom was called sirr meaning a hidden and mysterious thing (Abu-Sahlieh). In the United States Increasingly, female circumcision is seen in Europe, Australia, the United States, and Canada because of immigration from countries that practice FC (World Health Organization, 2000). Little is known about the cu rrent prevalence of female circumcision in the United States. In 1994, the World Health Organization (WHO) decl ared that female circumcision had become a

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12 public health issue in the United States (Bas hir, 1997). Eyega and Conneely (1997) surveyed health care providers in New York City in hop es of determining the prevalence of female circumcision in the area. They surveyed a tota l of 40 nurses, 48 physicians, 43 registered nurses, 8 resident physicians, 6 nurse pr actitioners, and 3 physicians assi stants. Eighty-seven percent of the respondents reported having knowledge of female circumci sion, gained mainly by patient contact (76 %), general media (63 %), medical journals (50 %), other providers (36 %), and training or conferences (29 % and 17 %). Out of these 87 % of respondents, 100 % of the nursemidwives, 85 % of the physicians, and 77 % of th e registered nurses reported having knowledge of female circumcision. Almost two-thirds of the respondents had treate d circumcised women. The Secretary of Health and Human Services was required by legislation to undertake a study of female circumcision in th e United States to determine who was at risk. They estimated that approximately 168,000 girls and women (mostly from Africa) in this country were with or at risk for female circumcision (Rahman and Toubi a, 2001). Of these, 48,000 were under the age of 18. Forty-five percent of th e 168,000 girls and women live in 11 metropolitan areas including New York City, Washington, DC, Los-Angels-Lo ng Beach, Houston, Chicago, and Philadelphia (Jones et al., 1997). These figures are based on the 1990 U.S. Census (summarized in the U.S. Secretary of State Report, 2001). In addition to performing this study, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) was required to carry out an educational outreach program for communities at risk of female circumcision. A ccording to Rahman and Toubia (2001), between February and September 1997, the DHHS held comm unity consultation meetings in Washington DC, New York, Boston, San Diego, Houston, Atla nta, and Chicago. The department was also required to survey medical schools, medical osteopathy schools, nursing schools, midwifery

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13 schools, and schools of social work to attemp t to determine the prevalence of female circumcision (Rahman and Toubia, 2001). The Medicalization of Female Circ umcision in the United States In the United States from the 1880s to th e 1950s, excision was performed to supposedly prevent, frigidity, hysteria, depression, epile psy, kleptomania, and melancholia in women (Watson, 2005). Circumcisions were also pe rformed to cure masturbation, lesbianism, nymphomania (desiring excessive amounts of sex), and any other form of abnormal sexual behavior. In 1910, De Forest Willard, in his book The Surgery of Childhood claimed that an irritated clitoris one whose hood bound it down too tightly and therefore caused irritating adhesions to remain trappedcoul d cause a woman or girl to ma sturbate in order to quell the discomfort (as cited in Webber, 2003). Willard clai med that a girls prepuce should therefore be circumcised to relieve this discomfort. In 1948, a five-year-old girl in the United States underwent a clitoridectomy to cure mast urbation (Ehrenreich and English, 1978). Beginning in the late nineteenth century a nd extending into the 1970s, circumcisions in America were also used to assist women who l acked an orgasmic response from missionary sex with their spouse (Webber, 2003). Doctors beli eved women who had difficulty achieving an orgasm had a tight clitoral hood, which could be fixed with surgery. Elting and Isenberg (1976) noted that up to 10 % of women found relief in female circumcision (as cited in Webber, 2003). Webber notes, Female circumcision, whethe r used to suppress sexual behavior or to promote it, was an operation used to direct fema le sexual desire toward sex with a man, namely her husband Circumcision surgically direct ed womens sexual behavior. Sexual energy not specifically addressed toward ones husband was considered deviant (p.66). Into the 1970s, 3,000 circumcisions were performed in the United States, and their costs were covered by Blue Cross Insurance until 1977 (Watson, 2005).

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14 The International Consumption of Female Circumcision and Western Interventions Many western countries have s poken out against the consumption of female circumcision without adequate knowledge of the history, significance, or preval ence of the procedure. Without understanding the fundamental reasons for the consumption of female circumcision or the prevalence of consumption, no changes will succe ssfully be made. For example, Egypt has one of the highest rates of female circumcision in Africa. As a result, they have encountered significant international pressure to eliminate the practice. Egypt has been forced to conform to international desires for financial reasons; the Un ited States began refusing financial aid to countries that had not yet taken steps to erad icate female circumcision. According to Boyle (2002), states in countries where [female circum cision] occurred would ha ve to develop policies to eliminate the practice or face reductions in foreign aid from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (p. 5). Furthermore, in 1995, the United Nations declared female circumcision a violation of womens ri ghts (Newland, 2006). In 1998, the United Nations launched a campaign to eradicate female circum cision worldwide (Newland). Because Egypt is highly dependent on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for resources, they were unable to evade the persistent pressure fr om the international community and the Egyptian health minister was forced to forbid female circumcision in government medical facilities (Boyle, 2002). It is because of this external pressure that the Egyptian governments attempts to eradicate female circumcision have not been successful. Without acknowledging the importance of the tradition to many Egyptians, the governme nt has passed laws prohibiting the custom. Because of this, the legislation in Egypt banning the practice of female circumcision has driven the custom underground (Lightf oot-Klein, 1989). As Boyle (2002) explains, Egypt is one nation caught between contradictory pe rspectives towards [female circumcision]. The Egyptian case

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15 highlights the fact that nationa l policy making does not simply mi rror local values or conflicts (p. 2). National policy-making, as it applies to Egypt is therefore an interplay between local and international considerations (Boyle). Boyle also points out that if lo cal laws were merely reflections of the desires of citizens, laws w ould be passed ensuring the safe implementation of female circumcision. In contrast, the laws in Eg ypt have banned the practice, proving that these new laws against female circumcision are not re flecting the desires of Egyptian citizens. The consumption of female circumcision ha s reached beyond borders and is occurring more frequently within the international community. The US has used its authority over the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as leverage to eradicate what they believe to be an immoral tradition. These so rts of financial threats do rese mble colonialism, especially because Egypt (and many other countries) depend s on financial aid from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Any people would feel threatened when their culture is vilified, and Egyptians are no exception. The Egyptian govern ment is trapped between threats of reducing financial aid and upholding the customs of their people. Despite the United States perceived good intentions, their intervention in Egypts cu stoms has only led to more tensions within Egypt. Concluding Remarks The practice of female circumcision is a co mplex procedure with a complicated past. With its increasing prevalence in the international community, understanding the procedure is essential. When Westerners vilify the procedure, they also vilify and isolate circumcised women. Chapter 2 will explain the various laws and po licies the United States has enacted regarding female circumcision within its own borders. Ch apters 3 through 5 will explain some of the problems outlawing the procedure have created.

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16 CHAPTER 2 UNITED STATES LEGISLATION RELA TING TO FEMALE CIRCUMCISION Changes in attitudes and behavior of immigrants concerning [female circumcision] cannot be viewed as a se parate problem from the rest of the community[female circumcision] should be seen as an issue that is addressed by involving the whole community. -Williams, Acosta, and McPherson, 1999, p. 51 Federal Legislation In 1994, the World Health Organization declared that female circumcision had become a public health issue in the United States (Bashir, 1997). As was noted in Chapter 1, the Secretary of Health and Human Services estimated that approximately 168,000 girls and women (mostly from Africa) in the United States were with or at risk for female circumcision (Rahman & Toubia, 2001). As a result of increasing immigration, the United States government enacted federal legislation in regard to female ci rcumcision. The Federal government enacted this legislation under Section 116 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. It reads as follows: (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), w hoever knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both. (b) A surgical operation is not a violati on of this section if the operation is-(1) necessary to the health of the pe rson on whom it is performed, and is performed by a person licensed in the place of its performance as a medical practitioner; or (2) performed on a person in labor or who has just given birth and is performed for medical purposes connected with that labor or birth by a person licensed in the place it is performed as a medical practiti oner, midwife, or person in training to become such a practitioner or midwife. (c) In applying subsection (b)(1), no account shall be taken of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be performed of a ny belief on the part of that person, or any other person, that the oper ation is required as a matte r of custom or ritual.

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17 In this Act, Congress deemed female circumcision to constitute a criminal act prohibited by law. Furthermore, anyone, other than a me dical practitioner, midwife, or person in training to become such a practitioner or midwife, who performs the surgery for a ny reason other than for medical purposes will be fined and/or impr isoned for up to five years. State Legislations In addition to the United Stated federal legi slation, 18 states have passed some sort of legislation making female circum cision illegal. In general, most states define female circumcision as the act of knowingly circumcising, excising, or infibulating any part of the labia majora, labia minora or clitoris of another pe rson for nonmedical purposes. The states differ slightly in the age at which circumcision is il legal. Of the 18 states criminalizing female circumcision, 7 states criminalize female ci rcumcision for women under the age of 18. Five states (Illinois, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Tennessee) prohibit female circumcision upon all women, including those over 18 years of age (Rahma n & Toubia, 2001). Five states (California, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, and Oregon) ha ve additional provisions for educational outreach to immigrant communities. Of the 18 states criminalizing female circumcision, sixteen st ates define female circumcision as a felony. One state (Minnesota ) leaves the punishment and crime category of female circumcision up to the judge and read s, judges should exercise their discretion by assigning an offense a severity level which they believe to be appropriate (MINN. STAT. 609.2245, 2005). Four states (Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Illinois) define and punish female circumcision as a form of child abuse. All eighteen states crimin alize the performer of female circumcision. Ten of the 18 states criminaliz ing female circumcision take in to consideration that girls are circumcised as a result of their culture. Thes e state legislations, like the federal legislation,

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18 argue that no account shall be ta ken of the belief on the part of any individual that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual. Until 2006, there had been no prosecutions of fe male circumcision in the United States. In 2006, Khalid Adem, an Ethopian immigrant, wa s sentenced to 10 years in prison and five years of probation for cutting off his 2-year-old da ughters clitoris with a pair of scissors in 2001. He was convicted of aggravated battery and cruelty to childre n. He was arrested in Georgia which, at the time, had no provision against female circumcision. He also received a fine in the amount of $5,000, with an additional $32 a month for a probation and supervision fee (Brock, 2002). After Adem's arrest, Georgia passed a law making female circumcision a felony with a minimum penalty of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years (Mungin, 2006; GA. CODE ANN. 16-5-27, 2006). Other Legislations In 1991, the American Medical Association (AMA ) declared its oppositio n to all forms of medically unnecessary surgical modificati on of female genitalia (American Medical Association, 1991, as cited in Rahman & Toubi a, 2001, p.239). The AMA characterized female circumcision as a form of child abuse. The AMA advised doctors to provide culturally sensitive counseling to inform the patient and to refe r patients to social s upport groups (Rahman & Toubia, p.239). In 1993, the US Agency for Internationa l Development (USAID) began working on prevention strategies for female circumcision in Egypt and in other coun tries where circumcision is regularly practiced. Preven tion strategies included data collection, support for local organizations working to eliminate the practi ce, and the training of medical providers and community based health workers on methods for dealing with the consequences of female circumcision (Rahman & Toubia, 2001, p.240).

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19 The United States Congress ha s also passed three other m easures relating to female circumcision. First, Congress passed a law requir ing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to undertake a study of female circumcision in th e United States to determine who was at risk. Congress told the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to compile data on the number of females living in the United States w ho have been subject to female genital mutilation (whether in the United States or in their coun tries of origin) includi ng specification of the number of girls under the age of 18 who have been subject to such mutilation (Congress, 1996 as cited in Jones et al., 1997). The DHHS commi ssioned the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to carry out the study to determin e the prevalence of female circumcision in the United States (Rahman & Toubia, 2001). The CDC used data fr om the 1990 U.S. Census and estimated that there were approximately 168,000 girls and women in the United States who were with or at risk for FC/FGM (as cited in Rahman & Toubia, 2001). Furthermore, they estimated that 45 % of women who were with or at risk for FC/FGM lived in 11 metropolitan areas (Jones et al., 1997). Sixty-five percent of the estimated number of girls under 18 with or potentially at risk for female circumcision lived in 35 metropolitan area s in the US; 72 % of these girls were born in the US (Jones et al., 1997). In addition to studying the prevalence of female circumcision in the U.S., the Secretary of DHHS was also required to provide educational outreach programs for communities with at-risk populations (Rahman & Toubia, 2001). Furthermore, the DHHS was required to develop and distribute recommendations for students in medical and osteopathic school s on how to work with circumcised women (Rahman & Toubia). Second, as part of the Illegal Immigration Re form and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, the Immigration and Naturalization Servi ce was required to provide information to

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20 immigrants and nonimmigrant from countries wh ere female circumcision is common. The information included the health and legal conseque nces of practicing female circumcision in the Unites States (Rahman & Toubia, 2001). The legisl ation required that in formation be presented to the immigrants in a cultura lly appropriate manner (Rahma n & Toubia). Strangely, however, the topic of female circumcision is a taboo to pic in most countries and bringing it up in any context would be inappropriate. Eyega and Conn eely (1997) note, our re spondents indicate that circumcision is a very sensitive and priv ate subject, and discussion is frowned upon and considered disrespectful to the whole commun ity, so women are not only embarrassed by such questions but also do not want to embarrass their families and communities (pp.177 178). Therefore, it is difficult to determine to what exte nt this information has impacted immigrants. In addition, a simple pamphlet will likely not have the capacity to deter immigrants from practicing female circumcision. The most current legislati on against female circumcision was passed in 1997. Congress enacted legislation requiring the U.S. executive dir ectors of international financial institutions to oppose non-humanitarian loans to countries where female circumcision was practiced and whose governments had not implemented any educational programs to prevent th e practice (Rahman & Toubia, 2001, p.239). Is Legislation Enough or Too Much? Despite efforts to be culturally sensitive to immigrants culture, legislation in the United States remains culturally nave. As Willia ms et al. (1999) noted, whenever a government prohibits the practice of FGM, whether in the country of orig in or in the other European countries to which groups immigrate, the practice continues, but in greater secrecy. This is mainly because those formulating the legislation and prevention strategies ignore the rationale for the practice (p.48). The Res earch, Action & Information Netw ork for Bodily Integrity of

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21 Women (RAINB ), an international advocacy organiza tion, noted that the well-being and status of entire communities could be threatened by the overzealous investigation and prosecution of immigrant groups believed to practice [FGM/FC]. Furthermore, RAINB raised the concern that broad criminal prohibitions run the risk of drivi ng [the] practice underground or the growth of an overseas travel industry to provide services (RAINB 1997, as cited in Jones et al., 1997, p.376). Similarly, Williams et al. (1999) noted that because of the criminalization of female ci rcumcision, many circumcised women might not seek medical assistance for complications resulting from the practice. Williams et al. (1999) explained that the ra tionales for female circumcision cannot merely be explained in terms of culture or t radition, because that implies that people follow these rationales without conscious reasoning when in reality, complex decision making processes are involved (p.50). Western cultu re and law cannot merely be in stilled into immigrants coming from countries practicing female circumcision. Williams, et al. believed, if female genital mutilation is to be prevented in the U.S., an understanding of the immigrant groups cultural rationales for this practice must be research ed and acknowledged when planning prevention strategies (p. 48). Similarly, Jones et al. (1997) believed that to successfully eradicate the practice of female circumcision in the United States, policies must involve the immigrant communities themselves. For example, the DHHS was attempting to set up town meetings with immigrant communities across the country for purposes of deve loping education and outreach programs (Jones et al., 1997). Eyega an d Conneely (1997) noted, s ince circumcision is carried out with the best intention for the child w ithin the cultural context, this criminalization without education will not lead to a change in a ttitude, and may serve to disrupt families already struggling in a new country (p.178).

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22 The DHHS was forming recommendations for th e education of health professionals by reviewing existing medical curri cula (Jones et al., 1997). Eyega and Conneely (1997) believed that training and educating health care professionals is a crucial st ep in decreasing the prevalence of female circumcision within immigrant groups in the United States. Healthcare professionals need education regarding the physical and mental health consequences and clinical management of female circumcision as well as counseling guid elines, interdepartmental linkages, referrals and integrated service delivery, and the provision of translators and information in African languages (Eyega and Conneely). Eyega and Conneely (1997) found that it was not uncommon for women to feel that their circumcision defined who they were once they immigrated to the United States: many women only begin to think about what their circumcision means to them upon immigration to a new country where the practice is not the norm African women believe that a narrow focus on one part of the anatomy objectifies and disempowers them, so [American] physicians need to see them as full human beings, not merely as circumcised patients. (p.178) Furthermore, circumcised immigrants often feel th at westerners belittle their status and culture. Eyega and Conneely explained, many [circumc ised] women object to their portrayal as victims as well as to the attit ude of western feminists involved in this issue, who, they believe, want to define their oppression for them and then liberate them from it (p.178). Similarly, Watson (2005) noted, while [American anti-ci rcumcision legislations] are touted as representing a serious American response to an international human rights issue affecting women, many African women living in this countr y who are concerned about and connected to the targeted communities have ha d their voices excluded (p.434). More worrisome, William et al. (1999) believed that the criminalization of female circumcision would prevent many

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23 immigrants from seeking medical assistance for any complications they may have because of their circumcision. Eyega and Conneely (1997) found that many of the circumcised African immigrants in the United States exhibited fear of the American laws against circumcisi on, but did not change their attitude towards circumcision. Eyega a nd Conneely noted, some of the respondents support FC/FGM, and said they would circumci se their daughters if there were no legal repercussions, to honor tradition and to keep their daughters from becoming promiscuous in a sexually unrestricted society (p.178). Because of this mindset, Eyega and Conneely believed that merely criminalizing female circumcision in the U.S. would have no effect. They propose that educating immigrants about the procedure will better deter them from circumcising their own daughters in the U.S.. Watson (2005) most ad equately explained th e situation of anticircumcision laws in the United States: criminalizing, on its surface, seems a justifiabl e response for practices that are thought to harm or maim another. Nevertheless, the histor y of criminalizing, par ticularly of cultural practices, tends to divert the pr actice underground, and therefore, lead to more rather than less concerns. Criminalization of such pract ices is also seen as paternalisticone societys attempts to evaluate their own pract ices as the correct or moral ones and negate another cultures practices as lesser or immoral. Statutes re quiring educational initiatives rather than criminalization initiatives might be the most appropriate compromise. (p.435) As was noted in earlier in the case of the United States financial threat s to Egypt, understanding rather than vilifying the procedure and circumci sed women is key when instituting legislation regarding the practice. Without this, interv entions will likely remain unsuccessful.

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24 CHAPTER 3: FEMALE CIRCUMCISION AND ASYLUM IN THE UNITED STATES I asked her if she would want this tradition continued on her daughters. She replied, Never. Asked if she were sent back to Sudan, Could anyone do this to them? She responded, Yes. They would take them when I wasn't home. Who would?, I inquired. My grandmother, she replied. -Anonymous Health Care Provider, 2002 as cited in Oxford, 2005, p.28 Brief Overview of Asylum Law in the United States Throughout the years, United Stat es asylum laws have been modified through a series of international and national policies and laws. Many of these laws and policies have influenced cases regarding women seeking asylum in the Un ited States. Seven, in particular, have been frequently cited in these asylum cases. Firs t, in 1954, the United Nations approved the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The convention defined who was a refugee and outlined who should be granted asylum. Act 1 of the convention defined a refugee as a person who had a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outsi de the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it. Furthermore, Section 208 of th e Immigration and Nationality Act guaranteed alien refugees asylum in the United States, provide d that the refugee show well-founded fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, nati onality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion (p.195). Third, in the 1985 Board of Immi gration Appeals (BIA) decision Matter of Acosta (1985 BIA LEXIS 2; 19 I. & N. Dec. 211), persecutio n on account of membership in a particular social group referred to pers ecution directed toward an indi vidual who was a member of a

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25 group of persons sharing a common, immutable char acteristic. Such characteristics are either beyond the power of the individual members of the group to change or are so fundamental to their identities or consciences that it ought not be require d to be changed. Also of importance is the Refugee Act of 1980. The act is a federal law that reformed United States immigration law to admit refugees for humanitarian reasons. The act also introduced national legal standards for adjudicat ing refugee and asylum claims based on the definition of a refugee found in the Immigrati on and Nationality Act, outlined above (Oxford, 2005). Fifth, in 1987, the Supreme Court ruled in INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca 480 U.S. 421 (1987), that an asylum applicant need not show that it is more probable than not th at he or she would be persecuted if they returned to th eir home country. Furthermore, the court in this case noted, One can certainly have a well-founded fear of an ev ent happening when there is less than a 50% chance of the occurrence taking place. IN S v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987). Sixth, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act was passed in 1996 requiring an applicant to apply for asylum w ithin one year of their entry into the United States. If an applicant failed to apply within one year, they were barred from doing so unless they could establish changed or exceptional circumstances. Lastly, and of importance in asylum cases regarding female circumcision, the United Nations passed the Convention against Tortur e and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1987. The Convention stated the term torture meant any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is inten tionally inflicted on a person for any reason based on di scrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an

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26 official capacity. Article 3 of this conventi on stated, No State Part y shall expel, return (refouler) or extradite a pe rson to another State where th ere are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in dange r of being subjected to torture. Influential Asylum Cases There have been very few asylum cases in the United States regarding female circumcision. Fauziya Kasinga had the first succe ssful asylum case in th e United States in 1996. The second successful asylum case, for Adelaide Abankwah, was two years later in 1999. The four following cases are a few of the most importa nt asylum cases regarding female circumcision in the United States and have pa ved the path for future cases. In re Kasinga (1996) Fauziya Kasinga, a 19-year-old native and citizen of Togo, fled Togo before she was forced to undergo circumcision. Her husband in Togo was well known in the country and was a friend of the police. She feared the Togolese po lice could locate her in Togo or in countries surrounding Togo, specifically Ghana where she initi ally fled. She traveled to Germany from Ghana where she bought a fraudulent passport. With the passport, she fled to the United States, where she immediately requested asylum. In this case, the court established that fema le circumcision could be the basis for a claim of persecution. The court believed there were si x main points as to why Kasinga should be granted asylum based on her fear of circumcision. First, the cour t found Kasinga to be a credible witness. The court established th at her testimony as to what ha d led her to the United States reasonably could have happened to a teenage girl in the applicants situation. Second, female circumcision, as practiced in he r tribe in Togo, constituted pers ecution. The court recognized that persecution can consist of the infliction of harm or suffering by a government, or persons a government is unwilling or unable to control, to overcome a charac teristic of the victim. Third,

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27 Kasinga was a member of a social group cons isting of young women who were members of a specific tribe in Togo who have not been circumcised and w ho opposed the practice. Fourth, Kasinga had a well-founded fear of persecution based on a reasonable person standard. Fifth, the persecution Kasinga feared was on account of her social group. Sixth, Kasingas fear of persecution was country-wide. The court established Kasinga would be unable to avoid circumcision by moving to some other part of Togo. Furthermore, Togo is a small country and the police would not protect her. Based on Kasingas testimony and knowledge of Togo, the court found that (1) female circumcision was widely practi ced in Togo; (2) acts of violen ce and abuse against women in Togo are tolerated by the police; (3) the Government of Togo had a poor human rights record; and (4) most African women could expect li ttle governmental protection from female circumcision. The court concluded that female circumcision was a form of persecution that could entitle a woman to political asylum in at least some cases. In Kasingas case, since the above six points were met, she was granted asylum. Abankwah v. INS (1999) Adelaide Abankwah, a 29-year-old native and c itizen of Ghana, argued that she should be granted asylum based on her fear that her tribe would circumcise her as punishment for having engaged in premarital sex. She felt that members of her tribe would continue to search for her since she had sinned against th eir God. She did not believe a nyone in Ghana could protect her from the tribal authorities that would force he r to be circumcised. For this reason, she bought a falsified passport and fled to the United States. She was apprehended upon her arrival at John F. Kennedy Airport an imprisoned. Abankwah petitioned for review or order of deportation and denial of asylum by BIA. The Immigration Judge denied her request because he believed sh e had failed to establish that

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28 her fear of circumcision as punishment for her la ck of virginity was objectively reasonable. The Judge described Abankwahs situation as a pers onal problem rather than a matter of general practice imposed upon a particular social group. The Judge believed that because female circumcision was criminalized in Ghana in 199 4, Abankwah would be able to seek protection from the Ghanaian government and from non-governmental institutions. The appeals court ruled that the BIA was t oo exacting both in quantity and quality of evidence that it required. The court cited Melendez, 926 F.2d at 215: In the absence of documentary proof, the applicants testimony will be enough if it is credible, persuasive, and refers to specific fact s that give rise to an inference th at the applicant has been or has good reason to fear that he or she will be singled out for persecution. In her testimony, Abankwah said that she did not believe that the government of Ghana could or would prevent her tribe from circumcising her. She also said that she did not know that the government had outlawed female circumcision since people are still practicing it. Abay v. Ashcroft (2004) Yayeshwork Abay and Burhan Amare, bot h natives and citizens of Ethiopia, sought refugee status in the United States based on fear of female circumcision. Abay, mother of nineyear-old Amare, was circumcised at a young age. Abays mother had already attempted to circumcise Amare and Abay believed she would not be able to override Amares future husband or in-laws wishes to circumcise Amare. The court noted, females who live in a cultu re where female genital mutilation is the norm and who do not undergo the procedure will be persecuted, subjected to ostracism, and considered unworthy of marriage (p.6). Furthermor e, the court found Abay s fear of taking her daughter into the lions den of fe male genital mutilation in Ethiopia and being forced to witness

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29 the pain and suffering of her daughter is well-founded (p.8). As a result, both Amare and Abay were granted refugee status. Mohamed v. Gonzales (2005) Khadija Ahmed Mohamed, a native and citizen of Somalia, fled Somalia during the civil war with her family. She sought to reopen her asylum, withholding of removal, and Convention Against Torture (CAT) claims on the basis of he r first attorneys failure to present evidence that she suffered female circumcision in th e past and could constitute past persecution and torture. Mohamed had her clitoris and prepuce cut off when she was a child. Because Mohamed had previously been circumcised, in order to be granted asylum, she must establish eligibility for asylum on the basis of past persecution. To do so, the courts argued Mohamed must show: (1) an incident that rise[s ] to the level of persec ution; (2) that [wa]s on account of one of the statutorily-prote cted grounds; and (3) [wa]s committed by the government or forces the government is either u nable or unwilling to control (Navas v. INS, 217 F.3d 646, 655-56 (9th Cir. 2000), as cited in Mohamm ed v. Gonzales, p.3077). The court agreed that female circumcision could constitu te past persecution: in sum, the extremely painful, physically invasive, psychologically da maging and permanently disfiguring process of genital mutilation undoubted ly rises to the level of persecution (p.3080). The court argued that although females as a social group had never been previously recognized, the recognition that girl s or women of a particular cl an or nationality (or even in some circumstances females in general) may constitute a social group is simply a logical application of our law (p.3082). The court explained, there is little question that genital mutilation occurs to a particular individual because she is a female (p.3083). The court also disagreed with the BIAs ruli ng that Mohamed could not be eligible for asylum because she had already suffered circumci sion and therefore, there is not chance that

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30 she would be personally tortured again by the pr ocedure (p.3084). The app eals court held that female circumcision, like forced sterilization, m ust be considered a continuing harm that renders a petitioner eligible for asylum (p.3085). The court continued, like forced sterilization, genital mutilation permanently disfigures a woman, causes long term health problems, and deprives her of a normal and fulfilling sexual life (p.3086). The appeals court also explai ned that under the humanitarian exception, a victim of past persecution may be granted asylum even without fear of related futu re persecution, if the applicant could establish (1) compelling reasons for being unwilling or unable to return because of the severity of the past persecution, or (2) a reasonable possibility th at she may suffer other serious harm upon returning to that country. Th e court argued Mohamed could establish both female circumcision is a partic ularly sever form of past pe rsecution because of its many continuing side effects, and Mohameds clan in Somalia had been decimated by violence, specifically towards females, which leaves Mohamed at risk for further harm. Lastly, the appeals court established that Mohameds claim for protection under the Convention Against Torture was pos sible: In light of Mohameds past experience with female genital mutilation and the widespread practice of mutilating females in Somalia, the possibility of related harm occurring in the future, and the overall human rights conditions in Somalia, Mohamed may well be able to demonstrate that she is entitled to relief under CATMohamed may be entitled to protection under CAT on the gr ounds that genital mutil ation is a permanent and continuing harm (p.3091). Significance of Female Circumcision Asylum Cases There are several reasons why these asylum cases have been significant milestones in United States asylum law. First, these cases ar e the first to use asylum provisions for cultural rather than strictly political human rights issues (Gruenbaum, 2001). Second, Kasingas asylum

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31 case was the first to recognize women as a so cial group; it was the first successful genderbased asylum case in the United States (Gunnin g, 1999). This step is an important one for asylum law because many women flee their countr ies for gender-related reasons such as rape, sexual torture, sexual mutilation, sexual discri mination, abortion, and forced sterilization (AbuSahlieh, 2001). The recognition of women as a social group will serve many women, not only women escaping circumcision. In general, the success of these asylum cases has enabled many other women from countries practicing female circumcision to also seek asylum. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) was concerned that if Kasinga were granted asylum, another eighty million African women would also become elig ible (Boyle, 2002). The INS went so far to caution the BIA that the Board ca nnot simply grant asylum to a ll who might be subjected to a practice deemed objectionable or a violation of a persons human ri ghts (In re Kasinga, as cited in Boyle, 2002, p.110). The court in Mohameds case established that female circumcision constituted persecution, and as a result was grounds for asylum.

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32 CHAPTER 4 CONCLUSIONS Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, its beauties and cruelties; it accepts certain sufferings as matt ers of course, puts up patien tly with certain evils. Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap. -Hermann Hesse This thesis has covered many new probl ems the United States government faces regarding immigration and the customs of fema le circumcision. Possible solutions for these problems seem, at first glance are monumental. To implement effective strategies for resolving problems associated with circumcising, policy makers must begin by understanding and being sensitive to the traditions that prescribe th e practice. Possible polic y implications will be discussed in the reminder of this thesis. Legislation Implications The last part of Chapter 2 discussed the probl ems with anti-circumcision legislation in the United States. Among these is the problem th at by outlawing female circumcision, entire immigrant communities have been isolated. Furthe rmore, anti-circumcision legalization runs the risk of driving the practice underground. Many women may not s eek medical assistance from complications resulting from their ci rcumcision for fear of disapproval. Although a few states have enacted educatio nal legislation, more educational programs must be made available to immigrants comi ng from countries with high rates of female circumcision and to those already living in at risk communities in the U.S. Steps have been made to educate health professionals about complications associated with female circumcision. These steps should continue. A study in New York conducted by Eyega and Conneely (1997) found that 87% of health care provide rs (including nurse-midwives, physicians, registered nurses, resident physicians, nurse practitioners, and phys icians assistants) repor ted having knowledge of

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33 female circumcision gained mostly through patien t contact (76%). However, only 50% of these respondents had learned of female circumcision through medical jo urnals. Only 29% learned of the procedure through training a nd only 17% learned of it thro ugh conferences. It is clear through these statistic s that more emphasis needs to be pl aced on training medi cal professionals about how to handle female circumcision. Fam iliarity with female circumcision should not derive solely from patient cont act. Medical professionals should learn of the procedure before encountering it in their practices. Asylum Law Implications The progress of asylum law in the United St ates regarding female circumcision has not only been a huge step for immigrant populations, but for women as a social group as well. There is no doubt this progress has been substantial, but further improvements in asylum law are necessary. This is not to say that all forms of female circumcision are wrong. United States law should represent, to the best of its abilities, globa l human rights. If female immigrants are seeking refuge in the United States because they do not want to be circ umcised, United States asylum law should protect these rights. Furthermor e, as part of the United Nations, the U.S. has an obligation to protect human rights. This creates a dilemma for the U.S. How can the U.S. protect human rights while still be ing culturally sensitive? There is no easy or simple solution to this conundrum. However, advances in asylum la w, like the ones outlined in Chapter 3, help alleviate this problem. Last, it is necessary to solidify women as a social group in the Refugee Act of 1980. The Refugee Act of 1980 currently defines a refu gee as one who can show well-founded fear of persecution on account of their race, religion, nati onality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion (p.195). It is important that this definition also include gender. More

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34 generally, it is important for United States asylum law to recognize female circumcision as grounds for asylum. The Value of Language Words, when well chosen, have so great a force in them that a description often gives us more lively ideas than the sight of things themselves -Joseph Addison, 1712 The importance of language in society is undeniable. Language and words allow humans to communicate and understand one another. Words help explain things; their sole purpose is to carry meaning. Anthropologist Marvin Harri s explained, human la nguages are unique among communication systems in possessing semantic universality ... A communication system that has semantic universality can convey information about all aspects, domains, properties, places, or events in the past, present or future, whether actu al or possible, real or imaginary (as cited in Wilden 1987, 138). Emile Benveniste noted, language is the interpreting system of all other systems, linguistic and non-linguistic (p.239). Because of the significance of language in conveying information, attaching negative or positivesounding words to certain practices or traditions can often result in the development of preconceived notions about the practice. Many different terminologies have been used to explain female circumcision. Female genital mutilation, female genital cutting, fe male genital modifications, female genital operations, and female genital surgeries are comm only used to denote the same practice. Female genital mutilation has become more widely accepted sin ce the 1990s (Gruenbaum, 2001). However, for most people, the term mutilation implies intentional harm with evil intent (Gruenbaum). Many African scholars and feminists have argued that the term female genital mutilation is ethnocentric (Boyle, 2002). Furtherm ore, using female genital mutilation implies that all female circumcisions are mutilating, which is not the case. For instance, some of the less sever forms of female circumcision have no long term health consequences and inflict no real

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35 damage to the womans genitalia. Likewise, using the term female circumcision has its inadequacies. The word circumcision, to many, seems to trivialize the practice by linking it to male circumcision. This paper has used the term female circumcision in or der to avoid any bias or evil connotations the term mutilation bri ngs with it. Furthermore, it the term female circumcision seems to hold the least negative implications. Many problems have arisen in the United States when legislation makers and researchers attach the term female genital mutilation to the practice. It is important for researches and legislation makers to choose terminology caref ully; the expression chosen often denotes a standpoint on the issue and may ostracize many peopl e. For instance, while researching female circumcision, Gruenbaum (2001) noted, some of my Sudanese friends have been deeply offended by the term [female genital mutilation], and it is their reaction as much as the connotations of that term th at have influenced my preference for the term female circumcision (p.3). By subscr ibing a negative term to e xplain female circumcision, US legislation makers are researchers have not only vilified the tradition, but have also isolated and offended many circumcised immigrants. Ferdinand de Saussure (1910) spent much of his career researching and explaining the value or words and terms. He postulated that words are completely interconnected with the society in which they are spoken: the faculty of articulating words is put to use only by means of the linguistic instrument cr eated and provided by society ( p.11). Furthermore, he noted, a community is necessary in order to establish values. Values have no other rationale than usage and general agreement. An individual, acting al one, is incapable of es tablishing value (p.112). Language is a social productit presupposes the collectivity. Language is a system of signs that express ideas; this system is fixed by an ag reement between members of a given society. The

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36 sign (or signifier) is arbitrarythe re is no natural reason why certain signs are attached to certain concepts (signified). For instance, if signs were inextricably bound to a c oncept, there would be equivalent signs for all things in all languages. However, this is not the case. For instance, we refer to the practice of female circumcision in the United States many ways. The Arabic word for the practice is tahara, tihar, or t uhur. Tahur is usually translated as purification and connotes the achievement of cleanliness through a ritual activity (Gru enbaum, 2001). The signifier attached to the signified is a re sult of social agreement. Resear chers and activists have reached no agreement about the practicethis problem surfaces when the soci al world attempts to settle issues on paper that have no been settled in real ity. The values of the different terms denoting the same practice lay within the society doing th e defining. Society assigns values by attaching signifiers to the signified. Because the value of female circumcision in the United States has not been settled, there are many signifiers to defi ne the practice. Which signifier we choose to use as individuals places us in a camp of like-minde d people, but the signifier itself is merely an arbitrary way of articulating ourse lves. Like Saussure explains, a language is a system of pure values, determined by nothing else apart from the temporary state of its constituent elements (p.80). The Significance of Cultural Practices The significance of what we deem to be a cultural practice is important when we attempt to analyze traditions such as female circumcision. Merriam-Webster dictionary (1999) defines culture as the customary beliefs, social fo rms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group. The same dictionary define s practice as a customary action. Alexander (1990) explained the complexities i nherent in culture and society: we cannot understand culture without reference to subjec tive meaning, and we cannot understand it without reference to social structure constraints. We cannot interpret social behavior without acknowledging th at it follows codes that it does not invent; at the same

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37 time, human intervention creates a changi ng environment for every cultural code. Inherited metaphysical ideas form an inextri cable web for modern social structures, yet powerful groups often succeed in transformi ng cultural structures into legitimating means. (p.26). Alexander goes onto explain the society and cultur e are complex affairs. In regard to female circumcision, the tradition is so deeply embedded in culture that many complexities arise when trying to legislate against it. Furthermore, the tradition of female circumcision did not derive from nothingthe practice has roots and reas ons fixed within the culture. Without acknowledging these and understanding the subjec tive meaning for the practice, outsiders (Western feminists and legislation makers) will never fully understand wh at the tradition means to these cultures. The concept of cultural practices has influe nced our legislative a nd judicial ways of thinking of female circumcision. As was notes above, the United St ates is attempting to settle something on paper that has not yet been settle d in reality. The significance and morality of female circumcision has not been settled in our so ciety, and as a result th ere is still a tremendous amount of disagreement about how the United Stat es should handle this cultural practice. The significance of female circumcision as cultural practice becomes increasingly important when the West is forced to make judgment calls about it For instance, in the ca se of granting refugees asylum, the United States must define some cultura l practices as human right s violations eligible for asylum under the Refugee Act of 1980. Other cultural practices, such as human sacrifice, cannibalism, polygamy, or consumption of dog m eet have established a general consensus among United States citizens; most US citizens ha ve agreed these things are immoral. Because we have settled these issues in reality, we are able to settle them on paper w ith little or no debate. Still, there is a dilemma in categorizing some cultural practices as moral and legal and labeling others as immoral and illegal. Gruenbaum (2001) explained this dilemma, if these practices are

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38 based on deeply held cultural va lues and traditions, can outside rs effectively challenge them without challenging the cultural integrity of the people who practice them? (p.25). This dilemma brings to the forefront some interesting issues, one of which will be discussed below. The issue of multiculturalism arises from th is dilemma and is an important issue to discuss. Multiculturalism is th e view that all cultures are e qual in value. Although this view sounds appealing, there have been many critique s of it. For instance, Okin (1999) posed the question, what should be done when the claims of minority cultures or religions clash with the norm of gender equality that is at least formally endorsed by liberal states (p.1)? Okin argued that many cultural practices make it virtua lly impossible for women to choose to live independently of men, to be celib ate or lesbian, or not to have children (p.4). She explained, but perhaps the primary concern is that, by fail ing to protect women and sometimes children of minority cultures from male and sometimes matern al violence, cultural defenses violate their rights to the equal protection of the laws (p.8). Once foreigners immigrate to the United States, their culture is no longer a legi timate defense for behaving in certain ways; ignorance of or disagreement with US law is not a valid excuse for breaking it. The view of multiculturalism is more lenient on this point; if all cultures are e qual, then all cultural practices have something unique and important to add to society. For exam ple, Horrace Kallen believed that individuality was enhanced when each individual functioned bo th as a member of his ethnic-cultural group and as a member of the larger American society that embraced all the divergent ethnic cultural groups within the United States (Ratner, 1984, p.187) Kallen did not refer to the United States as a melting-pot, but rather as an orchestra, with each instrument linked to a cultural group making its unique contribution to the symphony of civilization (Ratne r, p.187). As the United States faces increasing immigration, and as a result, increased dive rsity in cultural practices, this

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39 view must be analyzed more stringently. What cu ltural practices add value to American society? What cultural practices are in opposition with American laws and morals? Where do American legislatures draw the line between cultural re spect and limiting cultural freedom? These are all questions entirely relevant to the kinds of i ssues Americans face when attempting to conform each culture to fit into what Kallen calls the orchestra of American society. Many researchers argue that culture can serve as a valid excuse for immigrants behavior and actions. Tunick (2003) poses the question, Are there cert ain actions one couldnt have helped undertaking becasue of culture (what philos ophers call the inability thesis), in which case perhaps our criminal law should permit a cultura l defense? (p.216). The inability thesis, as Tunick (2004) explains, holds that ones culture determines behavior and can make one unable to comply with the law and therefore less deserving of punishment (p.395). Ikuenobe (1998) describes that the inability thes is allows for people being ren dered morally ignorant by their culture (p.109). United States fede ral and state legislation have c onsidered this point and have included this in their code. Section C of US fe deral legislation outlawing female circumcision reads, no account shall be take n of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be performed of any belief on the part of that pe rson, or any other pers on, that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual. Furthermore, most state laws include this section in their legislation. Even if immigrants behavior and actions render them morally ignorant by US standards, they are still held accountable for th eir actions in the case of female circumcision; immigrants cannot circumcise their daught ers on account of custom or ritual. With increasing immigration and the current trend of globalization, America is being forced to integrate foreign cultural practices into US law. By challenging the practice of female circumcision by legislating against it, the US al so seems to be inadve rtently challenging the

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40 cultural integrity of circumcised women. With the rising prevalence of issues relating to female circumcision occurring in th e United States, it is clear something more must be done. Female circumcision is no longer solely a foreign pro blemit is now a domestic problem that needs settling. United States laws and policies have no t been well suited, thus far, for dealing with female circumcision within its borders. Laws and policies must find a way to be culturally sensitive while also protecting human rights. Without attempting to do both, many immigrants well-being may be threatened.

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41 LIST OF REFERENCES Abankwah v. INS, 185 F.3d 18 (U.S. Ct. App. 2nd Cir. 1999) Abay v. Ashcroft, 368 F.3d 634 (6th Cir. 2004) Abu-Sahlieh, Sami A.A. (2001). Male and Female Circumcision Warren Center, Pennsylvania: Shangri-La Publications. Addison, J. (1712). The Pleasures of the Imagination. The Spectator, 416. Alexander, J.C. (1990). Analytic debates: Unders tanding the relative autonomy of culture. In J.C. Alexander, & S. Seidman (Eds.), Culture and Society: Contemporary Debates (pp. 1-27). Cambridge: University of Cambridge. Althaus, Frances A. (1997).Female Circumcision: Rite of Passage or Violation of Rights?. International Family Planning Perspectives 23 130-133. Bashir, L. (1997). Female genital mutilation: Bala ncing intolerance of the practice with tolerance of culture. Journal of Womens Health, 6, 11-14. Bell, K. (2005). Genital cutting and Western discourses on sexuality. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 19 125-148. Benveniste, (1985). The Semiology of Language. Semiotic. In R.E. Innis (Ed.), Semiotics: An Introductory Anthology (pp. 228-246). Bloomington: Indiana UP. Boddy, J. (1991). Body politics: conti nuing the anti-circumcision crusade. Medical Anthopology Quarterly 5 15-17. Bond, S.L. (1999). State laws criminalizing fema le circumcision: A violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment? John Marshall Law Review Boyle, E. (2002). Female genital cutting: cultura l conflict in the global community Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Boyle, G.J., Goldman, R., Svoboda, J.S., & Fern andez, E. (2002). Male circumcision: pain, trauma and psychosexual sequelae. Journal of Health Psychology, 7 329-343. Brock, J. (2006). "Adem gets 10 years in prison for mutilation". Gwinnett Daily Post Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954): http://caselaw.lp.findlaw .com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=347&invol=483 Center for Reproductive Rights ( 2004). Legislation on female ge nital mutilation in the United States. Briefing Paper.

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42 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, In human or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987). Online: http://www.ohchr.org/english/law/cat.htm Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1954). Online: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/o_c_ref.htm Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190 (1976): http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgi-bin /getcase.pl?court=US&vol=429&invol=190 Dorkenoo, E. & Elworthy, S. (1992). Female genital mutilati on: proposals for change Minority Rights Group Intern ational Report. Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1856): http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.c om/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=CASE&court=US&vol=60&page =393 Ehrenreich, D. & English, D. (1978). For her own good New York: Anchor Books. Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990): http://supct.law.cornell.edu/supc t/html/historics/USSC_CR_0494_0872_ZS.html Eyega, Z. & Conneely, E. (1997). Facts and ficti on regarding female circumcision/female genital mutilation: A pilot study in New York City. Journal of American Womens Association, 52, 174-179 Finkelstein, E. (2006). Equal protecti on: An overview. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/ wex/index.php/Equal_protection Fishbeck v. State of North Dakota, 115 F.3d 580 (8th Cir. 1997) Gollaher, D.L. (1994). From ritual to science: The medical transformation of circumcision in America. Journal of Social History, 28 5-36. Greer, D.M., Mohl, P.C., & Sheley, K.A. (1982). A technique for foreskin reconstruction and some preliminary results. The Journal of Sex Research, 18 324-330. Gruenbaum, E. (2001). The female circumcision controver sy: an anthropological perspective Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Gunning, I. (1999). Global feminism at the loca l level: Criminal and asylum laws regarding female genital surgeries. Journal of Gender, Race and Justice, 3 45-62. Hammond, T. (1999). A preliminary poll of men circumcised in infancy or childhood. British Journal of Urology International, 83 85-92.

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43 Hill, G. (2005). Can anyone authorize the nonthera peutic permanent alteration of a childs body? The American Journal of Bioethics, 3 1-3. Ikuenobe, P. (1998). Colonialism in Africa, culturally induced mora l ignorance, and the scope of responsibility. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 28 109-128. Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 208. Online: http://a257.g.akamaitech.net/7/257/24 22/14mar20010800/edocket.access.gpo.gov/cfr_20 01/janqtr/8cfr208.13.htm In re Fauziya Kasinga, 21 I.& N. Dec. 357 (BIA 1996) INS v. Cardoza-Fonseca, 480 U.S. 421 (1987): http://supreme.justia.com/us/480/421/case.html Jones, W., Smith, J., Kieke, B., and Wilcox, L. ( 1997). Female genital mutilation: Who is at risk in the U.S.? Public Health Reports, 112, 369-377. Lightfoot-Klein, H. (1989). Prisoners of ritual: an odyssey into female genital circumcision in Africa New York: Harrington Park Press. Matter of Acosta, 19 I. & N. Dec. 211 (BIA 1985) Milos, M.F. & Macris, D. (1992). Circumci sion: A medical or a human rights issue? Journal of Nurse-Midwifery, 37 87S-96S. Merriam-Webster Dictionary (1999). Websters New Explorer Dictionary Springfield: Federal Street Press Mohamed v. Gonzalez (2005) (No. 03-70803, 9th Cir. Ct.): http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/newopi nions.nsf/65EF7F7426F8E88A88256FBF00784 3CF/$file/0370803.pdf?openelement Moses, S., Bradley, J.E., Nagelkerke, N.J., Rona ld, A.R., Ndinya Achola, J.O., and Plummer, F.A. (1990). Geographical patter ns of male circumcision prac tices in Africa: association with HIV seroprevalance. International Journal of Epidemiology, 19 693-697. Mungin, Lateef. (2006). "Dad stands trial over daughter's mutilation". The Atlanta JournalConstitution Retrieved November 2, 2006. Newland, Lynda (2006). Female circumcision: Mus lim identities and zero tolerance policies in rural West Java. Women's Studies International Forum 29 394-404. Okin, S.M. (1999). Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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44 Oxford, C.G. (2005). Protectors and victims in th e gender regime of asylum. NWSA Journal, 17, 18-38. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896): http://caselaw.lp.findlaw .com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=163&invol=537 Rahman, A., & Toubia, N. (2001). Female genital mutilation: a guide to laws and policies worldwide New York: Zed Books. Ratner, S. (1984). Horace M. Kallen and cultural pluralism. Modern Judaism, 4 185-200. Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971): http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/cgibin/getcase.pl?navby=case& court=us&vol=404&invol=71 Report on Female Genital Mutilation (2001). Prevalence of the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM); Laws prohibiting FGM and their enforcement; Recommendations on how to best work to eliminate FGM As required by Confer ence Report (H. Rept. 106997) to Public Law 106-429 (Foreign Oper ations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2001) Saussure, F. (1972). Course in General Linguistics LaSalle, Illinois: Open Court Publishing Company. (Trans: Roy Harris). Schoen, E.J. (1989). Task force on circumcision: Report of the task force on circumcision. Pediatrics, 84 388-391. State of Washington v. Baxter, 141 P.3d 92 (Wa. Ct. App. 2006) Strauder v. West Virginia, 100 U.S. 303 (1879): http://supreme.justia.com/us/100/303/case.html Tunick, M. (2003). How culture shapes thought. Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy, 3 215-217. Tunick, M. (2004). Can culture excuse crime? Punishment & Society, 6 395-409. US Secretary of State Report. (2001). Prevalence of the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM); Laws prohibiting FGM and their en forcement; Recommendations on how to best work to eliminate FGM. Report on Female Ge nital Mutilation as re quired by Conference Report (H. Rept. 106-997) to Public Law 106-429 Watson, M. (2005). Female circumcision from Afri ca to the Americas: Slavery to the present. The Social Sciences Journal, 42, 421-437 Webber, S. (2003). Cutting history, cutting culture : Female circumcision in the United States. The American Journal of Bioethics, 3, 65-66

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45 Wilden, A. (1987). The Rules Are No Game: The Strategy of Communication London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Williams, D.P., Acosta, W., & McPherson, H.A. (1999). Female genital mutilation in the United States: Implications for womens health. American Journal of Health Studies, 15 47-52. Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972): http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0406_0205_ZO.html World Health Organization, (2000) World Health Organization Fe male Genital Mutilation Fact Sheet. Retrieved November 8, 2006, Web site: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/ Wynter S. (1997). Genital mutilation or symbo lic birth: Female circumcision, lost origins, and the aculturalism of fe minist/Western thought. Case Western Reserve Law Review, 47, 501-552. Yoder, P. Stanley, Noureddine Abderrahim, and Arlinda Zhuzhuni, DHS Comparative Reports No. 7: Female Genital Cutting in the Demographic and Health Surveys: A Critical and Comparative Analysis ORC Macro, Calverton, Mary land (USA), September 2004.

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46 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Katie Schubert attended University of Califor nia Irvine (UCI) as an undergraduate and graduated with three Bachelors of Arts : anthropology, psychology, and criminology. After graduating from UCI, she was admitted into th e sociology department at the University of Florida. As a graduate student, Katies main focus was on female circumcision in the United States.