A new report indicates that despite the number of women and girls in the U.S. subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) tripling over the past two decades, the U.S. State Department has not done enough to prevent the practice from occurring.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 513,000 women and girls in the United States were at risk of, or had been subjected to, FGM in 2012, a three-fold increase from its 1990 estimate.
But a new federal report reveals that only one in six immigrants from countries where FGM is common are receiving information warning about the consequences of the horrific practice.
The CDC said the increase is largely due to a surge in immigration from countries in the Middle East and Africa, where FGM is a cultural practice.
Check out the State Department's fact sheet on FGM here.
Women who are at risk of or have experienced FGM in their home country often immigrate to the United States to seek federal protection. But the number of cases of FGM in the U.S. is underreported and there have been few U.S. investigations or prosecutions related to FGM, according to the report.
The State Department provides fact sheets on FGM to immigrants from countries where the practice is common, but investigators found gaps that have allowed many cases to slip through the cracks.
For example, the State Department does not provide the fact sheets on FGM to people with nonimmigrant visas because those visas are granted for temporary stays. But in some cases the visas allow immigrants to stay in the country for several years.
The department also does not provide information on FGM to immigrants who -- although they are nationals of countries where FGM is common -- applied for a visa at a post outside of their home country.
"Visa recipients who do not directly receive the fact sheet may be unaware of the health and U.S. legal consequences of FGM/C," the report said.
State Department officials told the U.S. Government Accountability Office that it would work to improve its education and outreach programs on FGM for both immigrant and nonimmigrant visa recipients traveling from countries where FGM is common.
Federal agencies have also been working to increase awareness of FGM by hosting roundtables and developing educational materials with law enforcement, immigration and health care officials, according to the report.