A California couple was arraigned in a Los Angeles federal court this week on charges of conspiring to circumcise two female minors, reports Women’s eNews. It is the first L.A. case under the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 1996. Todd Cameron Bertrang, 41, and Robyn Faulkinbury, 24, were arrested in December after agreeing to cut the genitals of two fictitious girls. Undercover FBI agents posing as the girls’ parents offered the couple $8,000 to perform the procedure. The law was designed to protect girls in immigrant communities that support the practice. It prohibits genital cutting on girls under the age of 18 unless it is medically necessary and then only if performed by a licensed professional.
Still, the L.A. case “doesn’t really fit the reason why the…law came into being,” said Taina Bien-Aime of the New York-based human rights organization Equality Now.
Based on census data and data from African countries, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1997 estimated that nearly 170,000 girls and women in the United States had been or were at risk of being circumcised. In Africa, female genital mutilation is a commonly performed without anesthesia in unhygienic conditions. Death and infections are common. The most extreme form involves cutting off the entire clitoris and labia and sewing up the skin so that only a small hole the size of a few matchsticks remains. Girls who survive often suffer psychological trauma and experience lifelong pain during menstruation, urination, sexual intercourse, and childbirth.