The United States State Department has formally denounced a recent Egyptian court ruling which overturned a ban on female genital mutilation. The State Department called the mutilation an “abhorrent practice.” State Department spokesperson John Dinger commented, “The U.S. government will continue to urge an end to this form of violence against women. It has been widely condemned by international experts as damaging to both (the) physical and psychological health of women.”
Worldwide, nearly 80 million women have had the procedure, known both as genital mutilation and female circumcision. The procedure involves cutting away the clitoris and labia minora with a knife, razor blade or other sharp object such as broken glass without anesthetic except for herbal remedies in some cases. Often women and girls contract diseases, such as tetanus, because the procedure is performed in unsanitary conditions, and many die of infection or other complications.
In June of 1996, a U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that a 19-year-old women who escaped her native Togo to avoid the practice should be granted political asylum. It marked the first time a court with national jurisdiction recognized the practice as a form of persecution. The ruling is now binding on all U.S. immigration judges who hear asylum cases. A law sponsored by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) and former Representative Patricia Schroeder (D-CO) bans the practice in the United States.