A United States grand jury on Wednesday indicted two doctors of Indian origin and one of their wives for their involvement in a case of illegal female genital mutilation. The Michigan-based medical practitioners – Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and Jumana Nagarwala, 44 – will now face trial for conspiring to perform the banned procedure on minor girls, unless their legal teams secure a plea deal. Attar’s wife Farida, 50, was also indicted in the case, PTI reported.
The Attars were arrested on April 21 for conspiring to commit the crime at a clinic in Livonia, Michigan. The indictment accuses Nagarwala of cutting the genitals of two girls from Minnesota with help from the Attars, who let her use their premises and helped coordinate the victims’ trip to the state, the document said. The girls concerned told the forensic team that Nagarwala had cut their genitalia, and that Farida had been present in the room.
The three had tried to hinder the investigation by lying to the officials and asking others involved in the case to lie as well, the federal indictment said. Nagarwala, Fakhruddin and Farida are believed to be the first charged under federal US law, which criminalises female genital mutilation, according to the PTI report.
Prosecutors said Nagarwala, who belongs to the Dawoodi Bohra community, had been performing the procedure for the past 12 years. The matter came to light after authorities received a tip-off. They had examined Nagarwala’s phone records, and further investigation had revealed that the parents of two minor girls had travelled to Michigan for the procedure.
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 that more than 200 million are affected by the practice in 30 countries.
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, India, have a wide diaspora around the world. The community practices “khatna” as the removal of the clitoral hood, which the WHO classifies under Type-I female genital mutilation. 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.