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Posted in: Feminism

Published on May 10, 2019 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Dignity: A Journal on Sexual Exploitation and Violence

Female Genital Mutilation in the United States: Estimating the Number of Girls at Risk


Biography

Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D., is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at City University of New York. She is a best-selling author, a feminist leader, a retired psychotherapist and an expert courtroom witness. Her work has been translated into many European languages, including Polish and Spanish, and into Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese, and Korean. Dr. Chesler is a co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969), The National Women's Health Network (1974), and The International Committee for the (Original) Women of the Wall (1989). She is a Ginsburg/Ingerman Fellow at The Middle East Forum, and a Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Global Anti-Semitism and Policy (ISGAP).

Dr. Chesler was an early 1970s abolitionist theorist and activist: She wrote about and delivered speeches which opposed rape, incest. pornography, sex and reproductive prostitution, and sex trafficking. She delivered a keynote address at the first-ever Conference on Rape in 1971 in New York City. Dr. Chesler organized and/or participated in demonstrations outside the movie Snuff; organized the first-ever Speak-Out on Mothers and Custody of children; marched outside Dorian’s Red Hand to protest the murder of Jennifer Levin by Robert Chambers after a night of drinking there; organized repeated demonstrations outside the Hackensack, New Jersey courthouse where the Baby M hearings were underway and outside the surrogacy pimp Noel Keane’s NYC clinic; outside the courthouse when Joel Steinberg was sentenced for the murder of Lisa Steinberg; and in numerous ways that concerned the trial of Aileen Carol Wuornos for which she assembled a team of expert witnesses which were never called upon.

She is the author of eighteen books, including the feminist classic Women and Madness,as well as many other notable books including With Child: A Diary of Motherhood; Mothers on Trial: The Battle for Children and Custody; Sacred Bond: The Legacy of Baby M; Woman's Inhumanity to Woman; and Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Judaism's Holy Site. After publishing The New Anti-Semitism (2003), she published The Death of Feminism: What's Next in the Struggle For Women's Freedom (2005) and An American Bride in Kabul (2013), which won a National Jewish Book Award. In 2016, she published Living History: On the Front Lines for Israel and the Jews 2003-2015, in 2017 she published Islamic Gender Apartheid: Exposing A Veiled War Against Women, and in 2018, she published A Family Conspiracy: Honor Killings, and a Memoir: A Politically Incorrect Feminist.

Dr. Chesler has published four studies about honor-based violence, focusing on honor killing, and penned a position paper on why the West should ban the burqa; these studies have all appeared in Middle East Quarterly. Based on her studies, she has submitted affidavits for Muslim and ex-Muslim women who are seeking asylum or citizenship based on their credible belief that their families will honor kill them. She has archived most of her articles at her website: www.phyllis-chesler.com

The author is not a front line activist in the battle against FGM but has, over the years, written many articles (Chesler, 2014a; Chesler, 2014b; Chesler, 2014c; Chesler, 2015a; Chesler, 2015b; Chesler, 2018b) and read many reports and Memoirs on the subject (Ali, 2007; Brannon, 2019; Hosken, 1979; Mire, 2011; Russell & N. Van De Ven, 1976; Walker, 1993); interviewed survivors and their advocates, and documented the activism of others, beginning in the mid-1970s. Were there funding and time enough, the author was planning on organizing a radical feminist and conservative coalition to lobby for criminalizing FGM in the United States and for funding the political will required in order to rescue, educate, and prosecute.

Abstract

Female genital mutilation (FGM) destroys the capacity of women to experience sexual pleasure. It causes serious medical complications such as bleeding, painful urination, cysts, dangerous and recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, the growth of scar tissue that make marital intercourse a nightmare and that turns childbirth into an experience of danger and torture. Due to immigration, FGM now poses a potential health crisis in the West, both in Europe and in the United States. To estimate how many girls who live in the West are at risk, one can measure the prevalence of FGM in the non-Western countries where it is practiced and then calculate how many immigrants from such countries are living in the West. The highest number of girls and women at risk in the United States immigrated from three countries where the practice is the most prevalent: Egypt, Ethiopia and Somalia. It is estimated that the following numbers of girls are at risk: 65,893 in New York-New Jersey-and Pennsylvania; 51,411 in Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, WV; 37,417 in Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington-Wi; 23,216 in Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim; and 22,923 in Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA. Including seven other locations in the U.S., the number of girls at risk in the U.S. is 506,795. The largest at-risk populations (216, 370) live in large metropolitan areas in New York, Washington, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Los Angeles, and Seattle.

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