Last summer, an American-born teenager of Somali descent fled her parents’ home in a suburb here after she discovered that a coming vacation to Somalia would include a sacred rite of passage: the cutting of her genitalia. In Guinea, a New Yorker escaped to the American Embassy after an aunt told her that her family trip would involve genital cutting. And in Seattle, at least one physician said parents had sent girls back to Somalia to undergo cutting.
Immigrant parents from African and other nations have long sent their daughters back to their ancestral homes for the summer, a trip intended to help them connect with their families and traditions.
During their stays, some girls are swept into bedrooms or backwoods and subjected to genital cutting in the belief that it will prevent promiscuity, ready them for marriage or otherwise align them with the ideals of their culture.
“Vacation cutting,” as the practice is deemed by those who oppose it, has existed in immigrant enclaves around the world for decades. Federal law has banned genital cutting in the United States since 1996, and last year it became illegal to transport girls for that purpose.