An India-origin doctor in the US Midwest has been arrested for performing genital mutilation on girls aged 6 to 8. This case is assumed to be the first in the US.
The 44-year-old doctor Jumana Nagarwala at a hospital in Detroit, Michigan has been charged with performing female genital mutilation on young girls since 2005, according to a criminal complaint released on Thursday.
The US Department of Justice said the doctor “performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims.”
She is an emergency room physician and she was scheduled to appear in federal court in Detroit.
The senior officials termed the charges “disturbing” and “deplorable”. They said the US law enforcement agencies “are committed to doing whatever is necessary to bring an end to this barbaric practice, and to ensure no additional children fall victim to this procedure.”
Since 1997, the number of girls under 18 at risk of FGM in the US has quadrupled. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 513,000 girls and women are at risk of FGM in the US.
The doctor denied the charge
The US Department of Justice released a preliminary criminal complaint which said Nagarwala told the federal agents that she knew FGM is a crime in the US and she denied that she carried out any of such activities.
She received her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Nagarwala since 2001 has been licensed as a physician in Michigan. State records showed there were no formal complaints or disciplinary action against her.
If she found guilty then she would face a fine and up to five years imprisonment for performing FGM. She would be the first person who prosecuted under the 1996 law prohibiting FGM.
In a statement, Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said, “Despite her oath to care for her patients, Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims.”
Blanco further said that the Department of Justice is committed to ending FGM in the US and will use their full effort to ensure that no girls further suffer such physical and emotional torture.
Acting US Attorney Daniel Lemisch of the Eastern District of Michigan said in a statement, “Female genital mutilation constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls. The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law.”
The victims’ assertion
According to the complaint, the federal agents reviewed Dr. Nagarwala’s telephone records and investigation disclosed that parents of two minor girls had travelled to Michigan.
Later, a forensic expert interviewed the girls and one of them said she was asked to come to Detroit for a “special” girls’ trip. But after arriving at the hotel, she came to know that she and the other girl had to go to the doctor as “our tummies hurt”.
The girls had been taken to the doctor who performed the practice on the girls. Dr. Nagarwala allegedly told the girls that she was going to perform a procedure “to get the germs out” of their body.
The doctors who examined the girls this week confirmed that the girls’ genital areas were “abnormal” which proved they were going through FGM.
One of the victim’s parents confessed to the FBI that they had taken their daughter to Nagarwala for a “cleansing” of extra skin.
Agents of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security who jointly investigated the case said they have identified other such incidents where Dr. Nagarwala performed FGM on the minor girls between 2005 and 2007.
Female genital mutilation is the ritual that involves partial or total removal of the female genitalia.
This ritual is carried out in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where more than 200 million girls and women are the victims of this cruel ritual.
WHO said FGM is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.