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US genital mutilation victims: It happens here
03:16 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

First federal prosecution highlights the issue, raises questions about religious freedom

Survivors share painful stories and push to end the practice in the US and abroad

East Lansing, Michigan CNN  — 

Rahel Musa Aron was just 7 days old when the elders of her community in the African nation of Eritrea performed a centuries-old ritual on her tiny body, cutting off her clitoris and burying it.

Nearly six decades later, the Christian church leader and mother of three daughters sits at home in this Midwestern city and wonders.

What would the small sliver of skin have meant for her life? Would childbirth have been different? Has she been missing out on a deeper level of intimacy with her husband of 40 years?

“I’m sure that it has affected my feeling,” Aron, 58, told CNN. “If it was not cut, maybe I would have enjoyed whatever I would have enjoyed. It’s a very sensitive area. So if that’s cut, imagine – imagine what I miss.”

Often discussed in whispers, the issue of female genital mutilation grabbed headlines last month when, for the first time, US prosecutors used a decades-old law that bans the practice to charge two Detroit-area doctors and a medical office manager in a case involving two 7-year-old girls. Now, several women in the United States who endured the procedure when they were young are sharing their stories – all with elements that mirror the Michigan case – in hopes of ending it for good.