Physician Jumana Nagarwala was charged April 13 in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan for performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on minors out of a medical office in Livonia, Mich. According to the complaint (PDF), the girls were as young as six to eight years of age and were transported from out of state by their parents or other family members secretly to the facility to perform the procedure. Federal authorities learned of Nagarwala's actions based on a tip from an unidentified source and interviews conducted of two minor victims from Minnesota who were taken by their parents to the Livonia facility.
This procedure has been banned in the US by 18 U.S.C. § 116 (PDF), and any violation of this law is punishable by up to five years imprisonment. This is believed to be the first case to be prosecuted under this law in the US. Nagarwala has also been charged under 18 U.S.C. § 2423 (PDF) (a) and (e) for "Transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and conspiracy," and under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (PDF) for making false statements to a federal officer. The first of these charges carry a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, while the latter can result in imprisonment of up to five years. Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco, together with other federal officials including the FBI Special Agent in Charge David Gelios, stated of these charges:
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… The FBI, along with its law enforcement partners, are 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 allegations against the defendant in this investigation are made even more deplorable, given the defendant’s position as a trusted medical professional in the community.
.The UN, together with many human rights organizations across the world have been urging countries for several years to end the practice of FGM. In February 2016 former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all concerned countries to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM) by 2030, calling it a "violent practice," scarring girls for life, endangering their health, depriving them of their rights, and denying them the chance to reach their full potential. In January 2016, Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh signed a bill banning FGM, and condemning the practice as not commanded in the Koran. The UN has consistently campaigned for an end to FGM, labeling the practice, among other things, gender-based discrimination, torture, an affront to human dignity and an irreparable, irreversible abuse of the human rights of women and girls. In July 2013, while noting the continued pervasiveness of FGM, UNICEF reported a world-wide decline in the practice due to multiple campaigns intended to educate parents on the emotional and physical health risks associated with the procedure and its aftermath. In December 2009 Uganda outlawed FGM
From Jurist, April 14. Used with permission.
Note: Efforts to ban FGM in the Muslim world have often been ineffectual. In 2014, Egypt's first FGM trial ended in acquittals. The practice persists even in Iraqi Kurdistan, despite officially secular rule there. It is of course said to be widespread in areas controlled by ISIS. However, authorities at Egypt's al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious university, have declared that the pratice is not mandated by Islam. US courts have ruled in favor of women who have fled FGM and sought to avoid deportation back to their home countries. The arrest of Dr. Nagarwala is certain to breathe new life into the controversies about sharia in America.