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US FGM Investigation Widens

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Following revelations about two Michigan doctors accused of performing female genital mutilation, the child welfare agency in Detroit is moving to terminate parental rights in at least two families.

At present, the children are still in their homes. Their parents were ordered to appear in court in a few days.

The case involves doctors and members of a Muslim community called Dawoodi Bohra. The defendants in the case are Jumana Nagarwala, 44, a female emergency room doctor and Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife Farida. Dr. Attar ran the clinic where the FGM was allegedly performed. Attar is accused of allowing Nagarwala to use his clinic to perform FGM and his wife is said to have held the girls’ hands as they underwent the brutally-painful procedure which is normally performed with anesthesia.

See Clarion Project’s Fact Sheet on Female Genital Mutilation

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.

Even though FGM has been illegal in the United States since 1996, the FBI, which recently joined the battle to stop the procedure in the U.S., says more than 500,000 women and girls across the country are at risk of undergoing the barbaric procedure.

The number of girls and women at risk in the U.S. has tripled since 1990.

Nagarwala is charged with mutilating the genitals of two Somali girls from Minnesota as well as the Attar’s 8-year-old daughter.

An investigation into the case of the girls from Minnesota revealed their genitals had been mutilated and/or removed, according to an investigation by federal authorities. The parents of the girls have not been charged as yet.

Other girls in the Dawoodi Bohra community in Detroit told authorities Nagarwala performed FGM on them. A number of girls in the community were questioned and checked by government authorities as part of the ongoing investigation.

Attar admitted Nagarwala used his clinic after hours and she never billed anyone for the procedures performed there, which Attar claims were treating children aged 6-9 for “problems with their genitals.”

For her part, Nagarwala says she was “only” performing a religious ritual.

Along with the horrific procedure being performed on young girls is the disturbing way details of the case and FGM were presented in various media outlets.

The local CBS affiliate in Detroit refers to the procedure as genital cutting a number of times, as if the procedure involves making a cut that will eventually heal as opposed to the reality: permanent removal of a girl’s exterior genitalia.

CBS also presents FGM from two points of view, leading the reader to believe they are equally competing opinions, as in the following paragraph:

“The procedure, also known as female circumcision, has roots in various cultures in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It’s generally performed as a way of controlling a girl’s sexuality, maintaining her purity or even making her more fertile as she grows into adulthood. But health and welfare organizations in the United States say it’s a barbaric practice that offers no health benefits but instead can cause great pain and complications for women and render them unable to enjoy sex.”

The Detroit Free Press’ article reads like the opening statements for the defendants until its conclusion where the reader finds out the investigation (which the news outlet seems to lament as horrifically invasive) has found that many girls have told authorities that FGM has been performed on them and the Minnesota girls have been left with altered or no genitalia.

FGM is a barbaric practice, based on false cultural beliefs. It is also used as a societal way of controlling women and their sexuality. It should not be condoned in the West or excused in the media as a religious or cultural practice.

Watch a clip about FGM from Clarion’s film Honor Diaries. As our film maintains “Culture is no excuse for abuse.”

 

 

 

 

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org