The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has requested help from the public to curb the growing practice of female genital mutilation in the country. In a recent statement, it said it plans to concentrate on community awareness to put a stop to the brutal practice. It is estimated that more than 500,000 women and girls are at risk of being subjected to FMG.

The FBI statement referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study (2012) published earlier this year along with the non-profit Population Reference Bureau (PRB) report released last year which states that more than one third of those subjected to the operation are below the age of 18.

"The FBI is proactively investigating tips and leads on this illegal practice. Investigators are hoping victims and community members who are opposed to it will come forward and report cases," the organisation's website mentions.

FMG is practised in the Middle East and Africa as a cultural custom and though it was made illegal in the US in 1996, it continues to be performed secretly. "We believe some of it is being conducted by medical practitioners — physicians, nurses, midwives — and some by female elders within the communities who have the distinction of being what is called a cutter," said Special Agent Kerry Sparks, who focuses on FGM cases as part of the FBI's International Human Rights Unit (IHRU).

Practitioners claim they are abiding by deep-rooted beliefs and traditions. But it is more broadly seen as a human rights violation as it does not have any health benefits.

"A lot of our efforts focus on increasing community awareness," said Thomas Bishop, chief of the IHRU. "We want people to know that the FBI is committed to preventing FGM within the United States."

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