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Girls & Women

This New Jersey Airport Will Educate Passengers on FGM

The friendly skies may soon be renamed “humanitarian.”

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) announced a new airport initiative last week at Newark Liberty International Airport called Operation Limelight USA, designed to bring awareness to female genital mutilation (FGM) and prevent young girls from being subjected to the practice by family members transporting them overseas.

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“Our aim here is three-fold regarding this brutal practice,” said Brett Dreyer, assistant special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Newark, and who leads Operation Limelight at Newark Airport, in a statement. “Enforcement is a key piece here, but so is outreach and prevention. This is why we have partnered with other government agencies, NGOs, and, most importantly, survivors and advocates from the community to share knowledge and resources so we may collectively end this practice.”

FGM is a serious human rights violation, and a gender-specific form of child abuse, the official statement noted.

“This harmful traditional practice negatively affects millions of women and girls around the world, and is concentrated in 31 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East,” according to ICE’s statement. “FGM provides no health benefits and in fact can cause lifelong consequences including chronic infection, severe complications during childbirth, mental health [issues], and even death.”

Read More: Nigeria Must Do More to Protect Girls Against FGM, Activists Say

The initiative, which is based on similar programs in the UK, will be enforced through one-on-one conversations with passengers as they pass through security at the airport, reported

“We are here to look at travelers, screen travelers, and identify potential victims and girls at risk, and possibly the violators that would be encouraging or performing these procedures in girls,’’ Dreyer told in an interview. “We will be interviewing them, educating people about the law, and notifying them it’s against the law and it’s something the federal government is looking at.”

Read More: British Children Are Learning the ABCs of FGM in School

New Jersey is one of 26 states that have adopted laws banning FGM, or genital cutting, according to the report.

The practice has been against the law in the United States since 1996, and it became a crime to transport girls out of the country to get cut in 2013.

Newark joins Washington’s Dulles International Airport and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York in spearheading the Operation Limelight program, as it begins its rollout across the country, according to a release by ICE. The hope is that increased awareness and and education will help deter the practice.

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