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February 6, 2024Washington, DC, United StatesHuman Rights Violators

ICE, federal partners continue efforts to raise awareness, combat female genital mutilation

WASHINGTON – The Department of Homeland Security’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center (HRVWCC), including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit (HRVWCU), the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) International Human Rights Unit (IHRU), and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP), join U.S. and international law enforcement partners, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other partners, in recognizing the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on Feb. 6.

“This international observance provides an opportunity to recognize this global issue, while raising awareness of those whose lives have been claimed or who have suffered life-long effects from this abhorrent practice,” said HSI’s Executive Associate Director Ms. Katrina W. Berger. “HSI, along with our global partners, is dedicated to ending this practice, advocating for victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.”

“Female Genital Mutilation, a form of gender-based violence and child abuse, will not be tolerated today—or any day—in the United States,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Justice Department and our law enforcement partners remain committed to holding perpetrators accountable and to providing support for victims of FGM using every tool available to us.”

“Female genital mutilation is a devastating crime affecting the lifelong emotional and physical wellbeing of survivors,” said Assistant Director Michael D. Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “Ending this human rights abuse will take a multidisciplinary approach from law enforcement, including community outreach, education, and training. Today and every day, the FBI stands with women and girls against FGM and all forms of violence.”

According to UNICEF, more than 200 million individuals alive today have undergone female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C), which refers to procedures that injure the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. FGM/C occurs domestically and in many countries across numerous religious, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Federal agencies have engaged in many initiatives aimed at protecting those in the United States who have been subjected to, or who may be at risk of, FGM/C. These efforts include:

  • HSI has an FGM/C outreach and education program, Operation Limelight. The program provides information on the health, criminal, and immigration consequences of the practice of FGM/C.
  • The FBI’s International Human Rights Unit (IHRU) proactively conducts outreach to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and provides frequent trainings to educate both the public and the FBI workforce on the FGM/C violation. These trainings provide awareness to the public about this form of abuse, which is a federal crime, as well as provide the FBI workforce the necessary tools to investigate and prevent instances of FGM/C.
  • DOJ’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) administering federal grant funding authorized under the Violence Against Women Act to prevent and address sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. Funds from certain OVW grant programs may be used by grantees to provide culturally specific victim services and responses to FGM/C.
  • DOJ’s Office of Victims of Crime awarding over $5 million in 2020 and 2021 in three-year grants to support community projects designed to increase direct services, education, and community partner engagement to stop the victimization of women and girls through FGM/C.
  • Examples of other agency initiatives aimed at protecting women and girls at risk of FGM/C can be found in the 2022 STOP FGM Act Report Annual Report of the Attorney General.

FGM/C is a serious human rights violation, a form of child abuse and, since 1996, a federal crime. Congress amended the federal FGM statute, 18 U.S.C. § 116, in 2013 to prohibit taking girls out of the United States for the purpose of performing FGM/C. In 2021, the STOP FGM Act 2020 strengthened the law by expanding the scope of punishable acts and increasing the maximum penalty. Violations of this law may result in imprisonment and potential removal from the United States.

HSI and our interagency partners actively investigate allegations of FGM/C within the United States and abroad. The HRVWCC collects tips and leads from the public and partners with NGOs who notify the HRVWCC if they suspect a child is in imminent danger of being subjected to FGM/C or taken out of the country for purposes of FGM/C.

HRVWCC is focused on investigating global atrocities and the perpetrators of human rights violations and war crimes. Established in 2008, the HRVWCC furthers HSI’s efforts to identify, locate and prosecute human rights abusers in the United States, including those who are known or suspected to have participated in persecution, war crimes, genocide, torture, extrajudicial killings, female genital mutilation and the use or recruitment of child soldiers. The HRVWCC leverages the expertise of a select group of agents, lawyers, intelligence and research specialists, historians and analysts who direct the agency’s broader enforcement efforts against these offenders.

Members of the public with information about FGM/C who wish to report to federal law enforcement can call the ICE tip line at 866-347-2423 or fill out the online form. Callers may remain anonymous.