SOME of the reporting and analysis in The Atlantic Monthly involves events that have achieved a form of closure; much more often, however, we present stories in progress, later episodes of which cannot always be covered in these pages. But two recent articles warrant updates, in part because they appear to have made a difference.
In "Female Circumcision Comes to America" (October, 1995) Linda Burstyn profiled African activists working to persuade immigrant communities in the United States to end the hideous procedure that has been inflicted on more than 100 million women and girls around the world. In September, on the last day of the 104th Congress, legislation criminalizing the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) when performed in this country on girls under the age of eighteen cleared the final obstacles on Capitol Hill and was signed into law by President Clinton. Meanwhile, the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals has acted in the matter of a young Togolese woman, Fauziya Kassindja,who in 1994 fled her country to escape FGM, seeking political asylum in the United States -- only to spend the next sixteen months in detention centers. Burstyn, writing in The Washington Post last March, publicized Kassindja's plight, which brought the case national media attention. The appeals board, citing a report stating that women in Africa may face "threats or acts of physical violence or social ostracization for refusing to undergo this harmful traditional practice," ruled that Kassindja was entitled to political asylum -- and set a strong precedent.
Eric Schlosser's "In the Strawberry Fields" (November, 1995) described an insidious form of sharecropping that exists in the strawberry industry and the condition of near debt peonage in which many strawberry workers find themselves trapped. Last April the United Farm Workers officially began organizing strawberry pickers in some of the areas that Schlosser visited. The U.S. Department of Labor has prepared an amendment to the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act that would more explicitly define "employer" and "employee" -- definitions that would have important ramifications for the issue of sharecropping in agriculture of all kinds. The article was a finalist this year for the National Magazine Award in the category of reporting, and in May, Schlosser received the prestigious Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for investigative journalism relating to social justice and public policy.
-- THE EDITORS
The Atlantic Monthly; November 1996; 77 North Washington Street; Volume 278, No. 5; page 6.