Michigan doctor Jumana Nagarwala is accused of mutilating at least two girls
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala — Henry Ford Hospital
In what is believed to be to first federal prosecution for female genital mutilation in the United States since a law banning the practice was passed more than two decades ago, a Michigan doctor is accused of performing genital mutilations on two 7-year-old girls.
According to the Department of Justice complaint which was unsealed on Thursday, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala mutilated the girls in February in a medical clinic in Livonia, Michigan. The girls traveled to Michigan from Minnesota for the procedure, which they described in probably the best detail they knew how to law enforcement. One girl described screaming in pain during the procedure, and being “barely able” to walk afterwards.
An examination of the girls, the complaint says, showed incisions and tears on their genitals consistent with the practice. One of the girls also said she left a glove behind in the clinic, which investigators found there two months later while executing a search warrant. Both identified Nagarwala as the person who performed the procedures on them. Their mother allegedly brought them to Michigan for the procedure. The complaint did not say if charges have been filed against the girls’ parents as well.
More charges may yet be filed against Nagarwala: The complaint said she may have performed the procedure on other girls dating back to 2005, as “multiple minor girls” and some of their parents told law enforcement officers that Nagarwala had done this to them.
Shelby Quast, policy director for Equality Now, a women’s right advocacy group, said she was “encouraged” to see a doctor in America charged with female genital mutilation because it would raise awareness of the practice and also might discourage others from performing it.
“Female genital mutilation constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls,” Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch said in a statement. “It is also a serious federal felony in the United States.”
The serious federal felony has a maximum punishment of five years in prison, which is the same amount of time Nagarwala faces for making a false statement to a federal agent when she denied having done the procedures. Nagarwala was also charged with transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, which has a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.
While this is the first time someone has been charged with violating the federal law banning female genital mutilation, it is not the first-ever prosecution for the practice in America. In 2006, a Georgia man, Khalid Adem, was convicted of mutilating his then-2-year-old daughter using scissors and sentenced to 10 years in prison for aggravated battery and cruelty to children. He was released last March and deported to his native Ethiopia.
Nagarwala is an emergency room doctor at a Detroit hospital (which was not where the alleged crimes occurred). According to the Detroit News, she has been placed on leave. A local Fox affiliate reported that Nagarwala is a mother of four.