Doctor & Wife Facing Federal FGM Charges in Michigan Case
A conspiracy to perform FGM on girls as young as 6.
A second Michigan doctor and his wife were arrested today in the female genital mutilation case unfolding in Michigan this week.
The FBI announced that earlier today Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife Farida, 50, were arrested on charges of participating in a conspiracy to perform FGM on underage girls as young as 6 years old.
The news comes just days after Jumana Nagarwala, 44, an emergency room doctor in Michigan, became the first person to ever face federal criminal charges for FGM for allegedly cutting 7-year-old girls for cultural reasons.
The Attars allegedly conspired with Nagarwala to perform FGM out of Dr. Attar’s medical practice.
The unfolding scandal was prompted by a tip that led the FBI to investigate, according to authorities. Michigan is one of 26 states that does not have a law banning FGM, but it is still illegal under federal law, leading federal authorities to investigate the case.
According to police information from the first arrest, girls traveled from their homes in Minnesota to have the procedure done by Nagarwala in Michigan because it was legal there. They called the trip a “special girls trip.”
The Attars were likewise accused of conspiring to perform the procedure on girls who traveled from out of state.
“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 US Attorney Daniel Lemisch said after Nagarwala’s arrest. “The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law.”
Shelby Quast, the director of the advocacy organization Equality Now and an expert on FGM in the US, told Global Citizen that the arrests in Michigan might serve to chill other practitioners performing FGM in secret elsewhere in the country.
“This will have a big impact on others who are performing this illegal act,” Quast said. “This sends a message to other doctors that if you violate the law, you will be arrested, and you will be prosecuted."
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But the effort to stop FGM doesn’t end with police action, she noted. In fact, the issue needs to be treated holistically, including education on how to prevent it, and treatment for girls who have been affected.
"FGM is not a religious practice but a form of violence against girls. Law enforcement is very important but it must work collaboration with prevention efforts,” she said.
The Attars are expected to have their first court appearance Friday afternoon. Nagarwala was denied bail during her first court appearance, during which her attorney said the doctor didn’t cut any girls, but merely shaved them according with religious practice. She faces life in prison if convicted.
A federal ban on FGM has existed since 1996, and though it is more common in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, the practice does exist here, particularly in immigrant communities. In 2012, US authorities said about half a million girls and women in the US were either victims of FGM or at risk for it.
Globally, 200 million girls have undergone some form of FGM according to WHO.