Michigan Judge Dismisses Sexual Assault Charges in Landmark FGM Case
International Child Advocate, Attorney and Head of #EndFGMToday Says It’s Time to Call FGM What It Is—Sexual Assault
Washington, D.C.—U.S. District Court Judge Bernard Friedman has ruled that the sexual assault charges against Dr. Jumana Nagarwala in the landmark female genital mutilation (FGM) trial in Michigan will be dismissed—a setback for those advocating for the millions of women and girls physically and emotionally scarred for life as a result of this barbaric practice. The news was reported by ClickonDetroit.com today.
Attorney Elizabeth Yore, international child advocate and head of the EndFGMToday initiative, who has spent 30 years in legal child advocacy and previously served as Special Counsel at Harpo, Inc. as Oprah Winfrey’s child advocate, made the following statements after the announcement of the decision:
“We are very disappointed and troubled by the Court’s dismissal of Count 6 of the indictment,” Yore said. “The Court, in its legalistic scrupulosity, argued that the government offered no convincing argument showing that the phrase ‘sexual activity,’ as used in the federal transportation of minors statute § 2423(a), is synonymous with the phrase ‘sexual conduct,’ as used in § 750.520b(1)(a).”
Yore added that the Court found that Count 6 must be dismissed because, according to the judge’s decision:
“…while ‘the indictment must assert facts which in law constitute an offense,’ … ‘the indictment in this case alleges no facts which, if proven, would establish that Dr. Nagarwala or Dr. (Fakhruddin) Attar violated 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a) or (e). To prove their guilt on this charge, the government must show that defendants transported a minor ‘with intent that [the minor] engage in . . . any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense.’ Section 2423(a). The facts alleged in the indictment do not support this charge because, as a matter of law, FGM, while a prohibited criminal act, is not ‘criminal sexual activity.’”
“We are perplexed by the Court’s mind-numbing analysis,” Yore continued. “The victims in this case did not have their ears, nose or face mutilated, rather the defendants intentionally mutilated the genitals, the sexual organs of little girls, by penetrating them. The Court found that although FGM was a criminal act, it was not ‘criminal sexual activity.’ Because the transportation statute did not specifically define sexual activity, the court found that this statutory omission voided the charge. We do not agree with the Court’s legalistic jujitsu, which, as a result, leaves young victims who are transported across state lines at great peril to this barbaric procedure. We agree with the government’s argument that the jury should be left to decide this important fact issue.”
Congress passed the federal FGM law in 1996, yet it has taken 21 years for a federal prosecution.
“Why is that?” Yore asked. “The facts alleged in the prosecution’s case demonstrate the secret underground network of FGM conspirators, who in the dark of night carry out their secret scheme to sexually assault unsuspecting little girls.”
“This is what the underground FGM trafficking networks looks like and, frankly, why it is so difficult for the government to bring FGM prosecutions under the federal law,” Yore said. “Like the mafia omertà, the code of silence among the community of FGM practitioners makes it extraordinarily difficult to save little girls from this hideous practice and to arrest and prosecute mutilators. This is exactly why the public—including teachers, pediatricians and the child welfare community—must be aware and vigilant about this torturous practice. The defense, by imposing a manufactured fact requirement of sexual gratification, attempted to obfuscate and rewrite legislative history of criminal sexual assault.”
Yore also observed that FGM also has no health benefits and that its trauma does come under the abuse (physical pain and psychological trauma), degrade (reduction of female sexuality) and humiliate (inability to perform basic biological functions) criteria. FGM indeed meets the definition of sexual assault, she said, and that one need not seek or obtain sexual gratification to be guilty of a sex crime.
“As an attorney in the child welfare system where every imaginable child abuse injury has crossed my desk, the genital mutilation and physical abuse inflicted on Dr. Nagarwala’s victims would be evidence that the defendant engaged in ‘torture’ and ‘sexual penetration with a foreign object’ under most state child welfare laws,” Yore said. “We must ask ourselves—did the women and girls who endured the horrors of FGM feel assaulted, both at the time of the procedure and for years after? I’m sure they did. Female genital mutilation is sexual assault, a sexual activity, a criminal sexual conduct perpetrated to suppress, inhibit, and destroy sexual pleasure. plain and simple, and it’s time to call FGM what it actually is.”
Yore also noted that the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 513,000 women and girls in the U.S. are at risk for this brutal procedure. And the number of potential FGM victims is likely vastly unreported, she says. Despite the fact that the World Health Organization and the United Nations declared FGM a violation of human rights, more than 200 million women and girls are subjected to this torture around the world. Although this hideous practice has been outlawed under federal law since 1996, about half the states in the country are enacting their own laws. At least 59 countries around the world outlaw FGM, including the United States.
Learn more at www.EndFGMToday.com and on social media at #EndFGMToday.