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Girls & Women

For First Time Ever, US Doctor Facing Federal FGM Charges

A emergency room doctor in Michigan has been arrested and charged with performing female genital mutilation on multiple girls for cultural purposes, proving the sad reality that FGM is an ongoing global battle.   

Jumana Nagarwala, 44, was investigated after authorities received an anonymous tip-off that she was performing FGM. She was arrested after a 7-year-old girl identified her as the doctor who performed the brutal cutting procedure on her and another young girl in February in an unnamed clinic in Livonia, Michigan. 

The case against Nagarwala is believed to be the first US federal case of its kind against FGM, according to the Department of Justice

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The young victims had traveled from Minnesota to Livonia, a suburb of Detroit, on “a special girls trip” where they were allegedly cut by Nagarwala. 

The two girls, whose identities are not being revealed because of their age, are believed to be some of many victims who underwent FGM at the hands of Nagarwala, reports the New York Times. And prosecutors say Nagarwala had been performing FGM for 12 years reports BBC

One of the victims said she could barely walk after the procedure and that her parents told the FGM she underwent was a secret. She was told not to talk about it — another reason the practice of FGM has been difficult to stop.  

Read More: A New FGM Case Is Reported in the UK Every Single Hour, Says New Study

The FBI’s International Human Rights Unit along with other FBI and local agencies have been investigating the case against Nagarwala. 

FGM is a clear violation of human rights. There is no medical benefit according to the World Health Organization. Instead, emotional and physical scarring is left imprinted on young girls and later generations of women.  

“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,” stated Acting United States Attorney Daniel Lemisch. “The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law.”

Read More: 12 Myths About Female Genital Mutilation Debunked

While FGM is more common in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, the case against a doctor in the US in 2017 is another reminder FGM is a borderless issue.  

In 2012 US authorities said 513,000 girls and women were victims of or at risk for FGM, and this is low by some estimates

Globally, 200 million girls have undergone some form of FGM according to WHO. 

FGM has been illegal in the US since 1996, and vacationing for FGM purposes was made illegal in 2012. Yet the practice remains underground, and data collection, health services and more work is needed says Equality Now. 

Fortunately legal action against the horrors of FGM is a step forward both for awareness of this horrific practice, and one that can prevent future harm to girls at risk today. 

If found guilty, Dr. Nagarwala could face life in prison. And the case against her is already strong warning to others illegally practicing FGM to put down the knife.