More Mothers Arrested in Michigan FGM Case

A young Indonesian girl cries as she undergoes FGM.
A young girl cries as she undergoes FGM. (Photo: ADEK BERRY/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Two Minnesota mothers were arrested for taking their daughters to Michigan to have female genital mutilation (FGM) performed on them.

The girls, both seven years old, were driven by their mothers to a clinic in Livonia, Michigan. The doctor who performed the procedure, Jumana Nagarwala, 44,  was charged in April 2017 in the on-going case. Also charged were Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, the owner of the clinic where the FGM took place and his wife, Dr. Farida Attar, for arranging the procedures and holding the girls’ hands while it was being performed.

All the defendants are Muslims from India and members

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala. (Photo: Screenshot from video.)

of the Dawoodi Bohra sect.

The case marks the first prosecution for FGM in the U.S.

FGM includes all procedures involving partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.

Short-term complications can include hemorrhaging, pain, shock, and even death, while long-term complications include formation of cysts, problems with sexual intercourse and giving birth, chronic pelvic infection and sterility.

The trauma of FGM often lasts a lifetime and can cause depression and anxiety, among other psychological problems. FGM reduces or eliminates sexual pleasure for the victim. It has been illegal in the United States since 1996.

Investigators say as many as 100 girls may have been cut by Nagarwala over a 12-year period.

The latest women to be charged were identified as Haseena Halfal, 34, of Plymouth, Minnesota, and Zainab Hariyanawala, 31. Halfal is a U.S. citizen and has custody of a daughter and son. She was arrested by the FBI and released on bond. No details were available about Hariyanawala.

Other mothers in Michigan were previously arrested in connection with the case.

Lawyers for the defendants plan to invoke a defense based on freedom of religion.

“It is hard for me to imagine any court accepting the religious freedom defense given the harm that’s being dealt in this case,” said Dean of University of California Irvine Law School Erwin Chemerinsky, one of the nation’s leading constitutional law scholars and an First Amendment expert, as quoted in the Detroit Free Press.

“According to the complaint, despite her oath to care for her patients, Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims,” said Acting Assistant-Attorney General Blanco at the time of Nagarwala’s arrest. “The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse.”

The hospital for whom Nagarwala worked, Henry Ford, placed her on immediate administrative leave after her arrest and issued a statement saying, “The alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility. We would never support or condone anything related to this practice.”

 

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