'This is just the beginning of our work and we won't back down': Georgia woman launches campaign calling for Obama to commission study that re-examines female genital mutilation figures in US

  • Petition is led by 24-year-old Jaha Dukureh, who says she was a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) as an infant
  • World Health Organization says FGM has no health benefits and has multiple risks, including infertility and cysts
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last estimated in 1997 that 168,000 women and girls in US were victims of FGM or at-risk

By Zoe Szathmary

A petition calling for Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services to commission a study re-examining female genital mutilation (FGM) figures has reached over 47,000 signatures.

The petition is led by 24-year-old Jaha Dukureh, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dukureh writes on the petition's Change.org page that she was a victim of FGM as an infant in Gambia.

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Activist: Jaha Dukureh, seen in these 2013 file photo, was born in Gambia and subjected to female genital mutilation as an infant

Activist: Jaha Dukureh, seen in these 2013 file photo, was born in Gambia and subjected to female genital mutilation as an infant

'This is just the beginning of our work and we won't back down,' Dukureh says

'This is just the beginning of our work and we won't back down,' Dukureh says

'It took away a part of my femininity, my ownership to my body,' she says. 'Some girls, including my half-sister who died from complications from being cut, even lose their lives.'

'When I was 15 and I got married and I was unable to have sex it was like I went over FGM all over again, because when they cut you open, even though this initially happened to me as a baby, but the re-opening process was just them cutting me again,' she said in a video interview with the Guardian.

The World Health Organization says the practice doesn't have health benefits and carries multiple risks, including infertility, urinary tract infections and cysts.

Dukureh says on the petition's page that she's spoken with American victims of FGM.

'These young women are your average American teenagers -- some of them you know, some of them you went or go to school with,' she says. 'And there are many more girls in the US that are at risk of being cut.'


Call for change: Dukureh is asking the Obama administration and the CDC to commission a study that shows how many women and girls are victims of FGM and how many are at risk in the US

Call for change: Dukureh is asking the Obama administration and the CDC to commission a study that shows how many women and girls are victims of FGM and how many are at risk in the US

The practice was outlawed in the United States in 1996.

Dukureh notes that while Obama signed the Transport for Female Genital Mutilation Act in 2013 - which makes it illegal to take girls out of the country for FGM - there aren't recent statistics on the number of victims and those at risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in 1997 that an estimated 168,000 women and girls either had or were at risk for FGM.

Sanctuary for Families says the number of women and girls at risk increased by 35 percent between 1990 and 200.

Dukureh's campaign was backed by Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY), UN representative Nafissatou Diop and Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger at its launch last week. The paper previously endorsed a FGM awareness campaign in the UK.

'This is just the beginning of our work and we won't back down and we won't go away until girls are protected,' Dukureh says.

The comments below have not been moderated.

It's a disgusting act, but why should the U.S. spend the money for a commission on this when she stated that hers occurred in Gambia, not Georgia. She is not a woman from Georgia, but a Gambian living in Georgia. I agree that it should be stopped, but the U.S. shouldn't always be the first place to ask for cash and help.

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When will male genital mutilation be outlawed?

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That is what they bring with them to US, notice this law was not needed before because no one did that but they brought it here. Oh. Hm.

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It's barbaric. Child genital mutilation must stop.

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....this is a horrifically painful procedure and done without anesthesia; resultng in massive infection, ptsd trauma and death resulting from this barbaric practice...I remember a patient who was trying to deliver in our hospital who had been circumcised; poor lil gal, they had to rush her up to surgery. She was a walk in who was in hard labor, as a young lab tech, I never forgot that. Today when I read this I cringe for these poor girls, who are still having this terrible operation in this day and age...

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