A Michigan doctor was charged Thursday with performing female genital mutilation on minors in the first such case that falls under a U.S. law treating the practice as a felony offense, according to the Department of Justice.
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala of Northville, Mich., allegedly performed female genital mutilation on girls at a medical office in Livonia, Mich. According to the complaint, some of the victims, who were between the ages of 6 and 8, allegedly crossed state lines to have Nagarwala perform the procedure.
“According to the complaint, despite her oath to care for her patients, Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said. “The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse.”
The procedure is prevalent in some majority Muslim countries and is sometimes called “cleansing” by its practitioners. It involves the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, often performed without anesthesia. It is designed to ensure females remain virgins until marriage.
According to the Department of Justice, this is believed to be the first case brought under 18 U.S.C. 116, which criminalizes female genital mutilation, stating that anyone who knowingly circumcises, excises or infibulates the whole or any part of the female labia or clitoris of a person who is under the age of 18 “shall be fined or imprisoned not more than 5 years – or both.”
“Female genital mutilation constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls — it is also a serious federal felony in the United States,” Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch said. “The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law.”
According to a 2013 census by the Population Reference Bureau, approximately 500,000 women and girls in the United States have undergone the procedure or are at risk of the procedure.
In 2015, the issue of female genital mutilation received a wave of attention after Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt made a personal pledge of $100,000 to stop the brutal practice, after meeting Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an internationally known women’s rights advocate who suffered the barbaric practice at the age of 5.
“The allegations against the defendant in this investigation are made even more deplorable, given the defendant’s position as a trusted medical professional in the community,” Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis said. “My sincere hope is that these charges will give support to those who have allegedly suffered both physically and emotionally.”
Nagarwala was arrested and is expected to appear in Detroit federal court Thursday.