News / Health

Q&A with Shelby Quast: Americans and FGM

Frances Alonzo
Jaha Dukureh is a 24-year-old survivor of female genital mutilation. In June, she joined U.S. Representative Joseph Crowley, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, and Shelby Quast of Equality Now to discuss their efforts to end female genital mutilation in the U.S. The group is asking the Obama Administration to commission the first study of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the US since 1997.  
 
Shelby Quast, a senior policy advisor for Equality Now, told VOA's Frances Alonzo that American teenagers are experiencing FGM in this country or are taken out of the country for "vacation cutting."
 
Q&A with Shelby Quast: Americans and FGM
Q&A with Shelby Quast: Americans and FGMi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

QUAST:  There was a congressional letter that was signed by 58 bipartisan members of Congress calling on the U.S. administration to address FGM, to implement the law that was passed in 2013 that closed the gap that allowed girls to be taken outside the country for purposes of FGM called “vacation cutting.” And that was sent to members of the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice and the White House to address FGM and put this plan together and really actively do something to end FGM in the U.S.
 
ALONZO:  I think what is most shocking is that FGM happens in the United States.
 
QUAST:  It happens in the United States. We are hearing that there are girls who are being subjected to FGM who have not left the country but also to young girls who live here but who is taken to their parent’s home country for the summer and they come home very changed.
 
ALONZO: How does this come to light when they get back?  I mean, how is this a prosecutable crime if this is not just something talked about and more than likely these young ladies don’t have a regular gynecological exam?
 
QUAST:  That was part of the discussions that we were having with these different departments and that is that front line professionals not only need to be aware of what’s going on but that they need to know how to respond once they do become aware. So it could be schools, it could be school counselors, it could be school nurses. It’s somewhat clear that something has happened. And a lot of times, these girls are aware that’s going to happen.
 
When children are applying for visas, especially when going back to these particular countries that still practice this, that Department of Justice is working with these embassies to say that someone that age applies for a visa, we need you to inform them that it is against the law for them to take that child to get FGM. But also making the embassies in those countries aware. If a girl is aware this is going to happen and is seeking help, that she can say that. Or, there’s a hotline that she can call. So, not just law enforcement. That’s one piece of it. But how do we start raising awareness about the law, about the practice, about the rights of girls?
 
ALONZO:  So this is more of a community policing?
 
QUAST:  That’s part of it as well. It has to happen within the community. We have to have the discussion. Most people don’t know there is a law against this in the United States or, candidly, what FGM is. So many of those frontline professionals who are engaging with girls and with families and with these communities that they need to be better informed.
 
ALONZO:  Now this doesn’t only happen in African countries, this does happen in Asia, correct? 
 
QUAST:  Yes, Indonesia is one, a very large prevalence country. One of the areas that has been of concern to Equality Now is the prevalence or want to medicalize FGM. And in some way try to make that legitimate and really what the call is at the U.N. and what we are trying to say is that any type of FGM is a human rights abuse. And so we want to make sure that there are no laws in place that are protecting FGM and legitimizing it.
 
ALONZO:  You mean medicalize, meaning there are actual physical doctors performing this cutting.
 
QUAST:  Correct. Yes. And that in Indonesia where the law says that if it’s performed by a medical doctor then it’s legal. And we’ve obviously, that’s incredibly problematic and we are trying to see that they really look at that law, look at the international standards are calling for and that they reverse it. For Equality Now, it is really looking at those issues in that bigger picture and FGM is often done to prove virginity because it raises the value for early marriage.
 
So, when we really start to step back, I think that we do have to step up, we do have to lead the way and maybe previously, when it was believed that these things weren’t happening to U.S. citizens, that there might have been some people saying that then it’s not our problem. But it is happening here and it is happening to U.S. citizens and we can’t always put adolescent girls at the bottom of the priority list and I think we need to be very careful about that.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs