A Major Arrest for Practicing Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting in the US

If you thought for one moment that the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) in the United States was only a figment of your imagination, you need to reconsider that thought.  There are so many people here in the U.S. who are in denial or they are only being tightlipped about it happening in their communities that they do not want to admit the facts.

The turn of events in Michigan last Wednesday should open the eyes and ears of everyone in the U.S. that the campaign against FGM/C in this country is not an imagination, but a reality.  Federal agents on Wednesday arrested a Michigan doctor for allegedly practicing FGM/C on little girls.  An employee of the Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan, 44-year old Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was charged with violation of 18 U.S.C. 116 (female genital mutilation); 18 U.S.C. 2423 (transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and conspiracy; 18 U.S.C. 1001 (making a false statement to a federal agent.  According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Dr. Nagarwala allegedly performed female genital mutilation on minor girls at a medical office in Livonia, Michigan, even though she does not work at that medical office.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala – FGM

Originally from India, Dr. Nagarwala is said to be a member of a religious and cultural community that practices FGM/C on girls and women, which curbs their sexuality and causes sexual intercourse to be excruciatingly painful.  In the U.S., FGM/C is considered child abuse, and it should be treated as any other form of child abuse.  One activist told Global Woman Newsletter, “If I place a child on a table and touched his or her genitals inappropriately, I would be arrested for child molestation.  Therefore anyone who performs FGM on a girl child must be arrested and treated in like manner.”

Female genital mutilation and cutting is the intentional removal of either all or part of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons.  It is a federal crime in the United States for anyone who knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not yet attained the age of 18 years.

The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit states that they had both telephone and video recording under surveillance.  Those surveillance records revealed that there were visits to Dr. Nagarwala in February by two Minnesota girls and their parents.  According to the report, the familiar deception was used to encourage the girls to make the trip.  The girls were told that they were going on a special trip only for girls.  They were also sworn to secrecy once the girls arrived at the clinic.  It is not unusual for parents to use various deceptive methods to get their daughters excited and interested in going with them.  Swearing the girls to secrecy is an old cultural practice by parents and excisors.  The girls were given the impression that they were visiting the doctor due to abdominal pain.  However, instead of treating the girls for stomach ache, the doctor cut off their genitals.  According to the report, other children who were allegedly cut and mutilated by Dr. Nagarwala in the past have been identified by the FBI.  Her crimes are said to have been practiced since as early as 2005.

While Minnesota has a state law against the practice of FGM/C, Michigan does not.  However parents and excisors must be mindful that there is a federal law in place, which will be enforced; regardless of whether or not the state in which they practice it is without state laws.  Communities tend to place pressure on reluctant parents to have their daughters cut.  Parents should remember that they could risk being stripped of their immigration status if they violate the law against FGM/C in the U.S.

The Detroit Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has set up a hotline for anyone who has information about the illegal practice of FGM/C; whether it involves the Nagarwala case or another case, please contact them at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5984). You may also send information online to https://tips.fbi.gov/digitalmedia/FGM?poli.

PRB Map of US for FGM

If you have any comments or questions about this article, please contact Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation at info@globalwomanpeacefoundation.org.