UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, has issued a new report on FGM/C, female genital mutilation/cutting, that raises troubling questions about the practice and the American response to it, particularly in nations such as Egypt.

"Girls and women are made to have their external genitalia removed fully or partially– some when they are just infants, others when they hit puberty," explains UNICEF, "in the name of preserving female honour, chastity, beauty, ensuring their marriageability." Kheiriya Abidi, a 10-year-old Somali girl is "terrified of the blood, the pain and physical torture she will have to suffer if her genitals are cut." As another description notes, untrained practitioners do the cutting with instruments such as broken glass, tin lids, scissors or unsterilized razors, and without anesthesia. This causes intense pain and trauma, and poses health risk such as HIV transmission, and worse.

UNICEF notes that more mothers are now aware that "FGM/C can lead to their daughter's, or a girl's, death." The report finds a "sharp decline" in FGM/C in numerous countries. Among adolescent girls in Benin, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria, FGM/C has dropped by as much as half. All told, female genital mutilation has been inflicted on more than 125 million women and girls, roughly equivalent to the entire population of Japan. Nearly half of the victims reside in Ethiopia and Egypt, a country much in the news.

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