Court Case Reveals Underground Network of FGM Practitioners

On Thursday, September 16, Federal prosecutors announced that the Michigan-based physician, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala is not alone in performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on minors. The prosecutors added that Dr. Nagarwala is part of an underground network of physicians and individuals in a close-knit community of Indian Muslims.

Dr. Nagarwala, an emergency room doctor in Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, was arrested in 2017. She was charged with performing FGM on two children, aged six to nine, in Livonia, MI. After two months, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, the clinic owner, and his wife, Farida Attar, were charged for conspiring in the performance of FGM.

Federal prosecutors also disclosed two female physicians were carrying out FGM aside from Dr. Nagarwala; the physicians are based in California and Illinois. The prosecution did not provide additional information on the other two physicians.

Dr. Nagarwala and most of the victims belonged to the Dawoodi Bohras community of Indian Muslims. Prosecutors added that Dr. Nagarwala traveled to Washington DC to perform FGM on as many as five children.

Justice Attorney Amy Markopoulos described the network’s operation as “not a discrete, one-time occasion, it was not arbitrary.” Atty. Markopoulos added that cross-state travel was necessary to perform FGM, indicating that there was coordinated planning.

Since the arrest of Dr. Nagarwala and her accomplices in 2017, all of the charges have been dropped except a single obstruction charge. The anti-FGM law was also repelled at the federal level in 2018. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman declared that the practice could be banned only at the state level.

Much to the dismay of the defense, federal prosecutors issued a superseding that includes five charges of conspiracy to make false statements and witness tampering. Defense Attorney Mary Chartier calls out the additional charges, accusing the government of “prosecutorial vindictiveness.”

In a statement, U.S. Assistant Attorney Sara Woodward said that the defendants are “aware that female genital mutilation has no medical purpose.”

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