First Federal Case Involving Female Genital Mutilation in the United States

In the first federal case involving female genital mutilation filed in the United States, two Michigan doctors and the wife of one of the doctors have been charged with performing the banned procedure on two 7-year-old girls.

A 2012 US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that roughly 513,000 women and girls in the United States were at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation, which was more than twice an earlier estimate based on 1990 data.

The World Health Organization considers the procedure a violation of human rights of girls and women.

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Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, were arrested Friday at their medical office in Livonia, Michigan, west of Detroit. They were charged with three federal criminal counts including conspiracy, female genital mutilation and aiding and abetting.

Detroit emergency room physician Jumana Nagarwala, 44, was arrested April 12 and is currently in jail awaiting trial after a federal judge deemed her a flight risk and a threat to the community. The three defendants belong to a “religious and cultural community” that investigators allege practices female genital mutilation on young girls, which is a painful surgical procedure to remove part of the clitoris or clitoral hood to suppress female sexuality.

During a court hearing April 17, Nagarwala’s defense attorney, Shannon Smith, told a judge the procedure did not involve cutting and was religious in nature, CNN affiliate WXYZ reported.

Smith argued the procedure is practiced by the Dawoodi Bohra, an Islamic sect based in India, and that the clinic was used to keep procedures sterile, WXYZ reported.

The Detroit Free Press reported from the hearing that Smith said her client removed membrane from the girls’ genital area using a “scraper” as part of a religious practice. The girls’ parents would then bury the membrane in the ground in accordance with their religious custom, Smith said, according to the Free Press account.

The girls, both from Minnesota, later told investigators their mothers said they were going to Detroit for “a special girls’ trip,” according to court documents. According to those court documents:

One girl said they had gone to the doctor’s office because their “tummies hurt” and the doctor had to “get the germs out.”

The second girl said that after the procedure, “she could barely walk, and that she felt pain all the way down to her ankle.”

Both girls said their parents told them not to talk about the procedure. When investigators questioned the parents, one couple described the procedure as a “cleansing” of extra skin. What are your thoughts? Comment below!

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