What led to Dr Jumana Nagarwala a female Detroit area physician allegedly performing female genital mutilation on girls as young as 7 year old?
Jumana Nagarwala a 44 year old Detroit emergency room doctor has been charged with performing genital mutilation on young girls in what is thought to be the first criminal case of its kind brought by US prosecutors.
Appearing at a Detroit federal district court, the Northville, Michigan physician was charged with female genital mutilation, transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and making a false statement to a federal officer reported detroitnews.
In a criminal complaint, FBI Special Agent Kevin Swanson alleged that two young girls travelled with their parents from Minnesota so Nagarwala could perform the procedure on them in early 2017, and that investigators had identified other children who might have been victimized between 2005 and 2007.
On April 10 and 11, a medical doctor in Minnesota performed medical exams on both girls, believed to be 7 years old, pursuant to a search warrant. That doctor told the FBI that both girl’s genitals were not normal in appearance and had been ‘altered or removed.’
‘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 A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement.
Adding, ‘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.’
Female genital mutilation – or removing all or part of a female’s genital for non-medical reasons – is considered a human rights violation, though it is practiced extensively in some African countries and areas of the Middle East, as a religious and cultural practice, according to UNICEF. According to UNICEF, 98% of Somali girls, and 87% of Egyptians have endured the procedure.
The practice itself is illegal in the United States, unless there’s a legitimate health reason.
While the victims’ identities remain sealed, breitbart notes Minnesota being the host to the largest Somali immigrant population in the United States, a community in which female genital mutilation (FGM) is prevalent.
A June 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office found that increased immigration from countries where it is practiced had brought it to the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2012, 513,000 women and girls here were ‘at risk of or had been subjected’ to it.
The report also found that while female genital mutilation was a crime under federal and many state laws, there were few investigations or prosecutions stemming from it – because of underreporting and other problems.
According to the complaint against Nagarwala, members of a particular religious and cultural community are known to use the procedure as a way to ‘curb sexuality in girls’. The complaint did not identify the community but said Nagarwala was a part of it.
While male circumcision does not affect the male sex organ, female genital mutilation damages female sex organs and both inhibits pleasure and causes severe pain and complications for women’s sexual and reproductive health, according to the group Equality Now notes patch.
The ideology behind the practices is different, too, the group said, noting that female genital mutilation is a ‘patriarchal cultural tradition carried out with the intent of subjugating women and controlling their bodies,’ while male circumcision is ‘not rooted in a blatantly discriminatory ideology.’
The World Health Organization said female genital mutilation has been internationally condemned as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
‘It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women,’ WHO said. ‘It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.’
The indictment against Nagarwala came as the physician who worked as an emergency room doctor for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, had facilitated the mutilation at an unidentified medical clinic in nearby Livonia, Michigan.
Responding to the indictment, Henry Ford Health System said in a statement: ‘We would never support or condone anything related to this practice’ and that Nagarwala was placed on administrative leave.
According to the criminal complaint, one of Nagarwala’s victims, a 7-year-old girl, told investigators she had been brought to Michigan for a ‘special’ girls’ trip, and once there, she was taken to see Nagarwala. Another girl, also 7, described how she got a painful ‘shot,’ and that her parents told her not to talk about it.
The complaint noted the girl saying she could barely walk following the ‘procedure’.
Other doctors later examined the children and saw evidence of genital mutilation. The parents of one of the children said they took her to Detroit to see Nagarwala for a ‘cleansing’ of extra skin.
— M. Zuhdi Jasser (@DrZuhdiJasser) April 13, 2017
Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of the FBI’s Detroit Division said in a statement the allegations were ‘disturbing,’ and the FBI was ‘committed to doing whatever necessary to bring an end to this barbaric practice and to ensure no additional children fall victim to this procedure.’
The complaint alleged that other girls in Michigan also said Nagarwala had performed such procedures on them, though it did not specify how many. Two parents acknowledged that Nagarwala had performed procedures on their daughter’s genitals, while others denied knowledge of the procedure, according to the complaint.
Nagarwala herself told investigators on Monday that she knew genital mutilation was illegal and that she did not know of anyone performing it in her community, nor had she done it herself.
Nagarwala, a U.S. citizen who also speaks Gujarati, a language spoken in western India had appeared in court Thursday afternoon, while her attorney, Shannon Smith, declined comment.
Nagarwala faces a maximum of five years for each count of FGM if found guilty.
The fact that this butcher, a Dr. Jumana Nagarwala is a woman is incomprehensible to me. https://t.co/Id6A4zZok2
— Richard Moritz (@stmoritzr) April 13, 2017