A doctor of Indian origin in Detroit was arrested on Thursday on charges of performing genital cutting on minor girls. Emergency room physician Jumana Nagarwala, 44, used to allegedly perform the surgery on girls aged between six and eight years at a medical clinic in Livonia, Michigan, reported Reuters. This is believed to be the first time a case like this has come up in US.
Prosecutors said Dr Nagarwala, who belongs to the Dawoodi Bohra community, had been performing the procedure for the last 12 years. Nagarwala has been remanded in judicial custody by a federal court in Detroit. If found guilty, she could get a life term, reported BBC. “Female genital mutilation constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls,” said Acting US attorney Daniel Lemisch. “It is also a serious federal felony in the United States. The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law.”
The matter came to light after authorities received a tip-off. They examined Dr Nagarwala’s telephone records and further investigation revealed that parents of two minor girls had travelled to Michigan for the procedure, reported PTI.
Female genital cutting performed on someone under the age of 18 was made illegal under US laws in 1996. However, 26 states, including Michigan, do not criminalise the practice, according to PTI. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as many as 513,000 women and girls are “at risk of” the practice in the US.
The World Health Organisation defines female genital cutting as any procedure related to the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. WHO recognises it as a violation of the human rights of girls and women and claims more than 200 million are affected in across 30 countries all over the world.
The first recorded case of female genital cutting in the US came up in 2006, when an Ethiopian immigrant was jailed for 10 years for performing the ritual on his two-year-old daughter with a pair of scissors in 2001.
Dawoodi Bohras, a community of Shia Muslims mostly from Gujarat, have a wide diaspora around the world. The community practices “khatna” as the removal of the clitoral hood, which falls under Type-I Female Genital Mutilation according to a classification by the World Health Organisation. However, the community refers to this not as mutilation, but circumcision. They are the only community known to practice female genital mutilation in India, where the practice is not illegal.