Fatima Mohamed, a 45-year-old Somali immigrant living in America, was faced with a question most parents will never worry about: Should my daughter be circumcised?
The United States has outlawed female genital cutting, but cultural and religious pressures to circumcise girls linger among some African and Muslim immigrant families. Mohamed says the decision was an easy one for her to make after going through the painful experience herself in Africa as a child. She strongly opposes the idea of cutting her 11-year-old daughter, an American-born Somali with long curly hair, who plays soccer and likes watching "American Idol."
But not every family in her African community in Massachusetts feels that way. Nor can they they swiftly make the decision to reject circumcising their daughters, because it's a cultural ritual integral a woman's identity, she says.
"They say they don't want to hear it," Mohamed says. "Some think I'm disrespecting my own culture. Some will say, 'You act like an American now. You forgot about who you are.' "
Female genital cutting is often a coming-of-age ritual practiced in various parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but the procedure isn't just invoking concerns in the developing world. Religious and cultural beliefs fueling female circumcision often follow immigrants and refugees who move to America. Rarely have cases of female genital cutting been documented in the U.S., but much more likely, cutting has moved underground in the U.S. and overseas, advocacy groups and doctors say.