Will Accused Female Genital Mutilator Be Freed? Two Mothers of Victims Also Charged
7-Year-Old Girls Describe Torture in Michigan Medical Clinic;
Were Forced to Doctor’s Office, Could Hardly Walk After Procedure
Washington, D.C.—Two major developments are making headlines in the federal female genital mutilation (FGM) case in Michigan.
First, late last week, according to a CBS Detroit affiliate, federal prosecutors indicted two women from Minnesota who are accused of taking their two 7-year-old daughters to Michigan to have their genitals mutilated. These indictments come after six others—including several doctors—were charged in connection with FGM procedures in a Livonia, Michigan, clinic.
In addition, a hearing is set for tomorrow, Sept. 19, to determine whether one of those physicians, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, will be granted release from pre-trial detention. In evaluating the defendant’s request for bail, the judge will need to evaluate carefully affidavits filed by the prosecution that provide details of the victims’ harrowing experiences. Nagarwala, who was first arrested at an airport leaving for Kenya, faces a potential life sentence if convicted and, if Nagarwala is released from custody prior to trial, she poses a very high probability that she will flee the country.
The facts of the Michigan case thus far provide grim reminders of the FGM-induced physical and emotional scars that are faced, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control, by as many as 513,000 girls and women right here in America.
Elizabeth Yore, an international child rights advocate and head of the initiative EndFGMToday, has been following the Michigan case closely and says the shocking details that will emerge from the upcoming trial will raise awareness about the horrific practice of FGM.
“This ground-breaking case, with new developments every day, will reveal the horrors of female genital mutilation—how it affects these little girls for a lifetime, the doctors who perform these barbaric procedures, and even the parents who permit it and advocate for it,” Yore said. “This crime has been in the dark shadows of a clandestine market for far too long. At last, it is coming into the light for all to see, revealing bit by bit an apparently vast underground network of mutilators. As painful as it will be for these little girls to relive their horrific experience, the public must know the facts so that we can end practice of FGM in America, once and for all. FGM is child abuse, plain and simple.
“To do that, however,” Yore added, “we are going to have to put people like Dr. Nagarwala permanently out of business. My experience in international child abduction cases suggests that Dr. Nagarwala is a serious flight risk if released on bail. After all, she was arrested just as she prepared to board a plane headed from Detroit to Kenya. Should she get out and get away, she will surely be mutilating other children beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement.”
Among the appalling experiences the two 7-year-old girls recounted to investigators were the lies told by their parents. One girl said she was taken to a Detroit hotel for a “special” girls’ trip, then went to a doctor’s office because their “tummies hurt.” She recounted that a procedure to “get the germs out” was performed on an examination table, that she was given a pad to wear in her underwear afterward and was told not to talk about the procedure. A second girl, also 7, recounted that she was given a shot in her upper thigh that hurt so badly she screamed. She drew a picture of the room and indicated blood on the exam table, adding that she could barely walk after the procedure.
Last spring, Nagarwala, a practicing Muslim in the Dawoodi Bohra sect, was indicted by the federal government for performing genital mutilation on the girls. The Dawoodi Bohra sect, Yore reported, practices and sanctions FGM on little girls to curb sexual desire and discourage any proclivity for premarital or extramarital affairs. Twenty-two Dawoodi Bohra mosques exist in the United States, prompting Yore to conclude that the incidence of mutilation of women and girls is likely considerably higher than reported, even though FGM is a federal crime in the U.S.
Nagarwala has been charged with conspiracy, genital mutilation, transporting minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, lying to a federal agent and obstructing an official proceeding. If convicted, she could face up to life in prison.
Yore and her fellow advocates at EndFGMToday have been calling on other states to enact similar legislation to Michigan’s tough FGM prohibition measures, the most recent being Maine. Incredibly, lawmakers there failed to pass such a bill last month.
Learn more at www.EndFGMToday.com and on social media at #EndFGMToday about FGM and efforts underway in the U.S. to stop it.