DETROIT– A grand jury has indicted two doctors and a third person in an alleged scheme to perform genital mutilation on two young girls from Minnesota at a Detroit-area clinic.
A federal grand jury Wednesday indicted three people, including two doctors, alleging they mutilated the genitals of two Minnesota girls earlier this year. Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife, Faida Attar, and Dr. Jumana Nagarwala could face life in prison if convicted. All three defendants are part of a small, Indian-Muslim community known as the Dawoodi Bohra.
According to a complaint recently unsealed in U.S. District Court, the Attars own the clinic Nagarwala is accused of using to perform the procedures on girls as young as 6. Two victims identified in the case against Nagawala traveled across state lines from Minnesota, but federal prosecutors said multiple girls had the procedure as well.
The Attars, who are charged with conspiring with Nagarwala to perform the black market FGM procedure on girls approximately 6 to 8 years old, were indicted at the federal district court in Detroit where they had earlier been arraigned. In the original complaint charging Nagarwala with FMG, the government said the young girls thought they were taking a “special girls’ trip” or needed to make a long journey to see the doctor because their tummies hurt and were admonished to stay quiet about the secretive practice.
An attorney representing Nagarwala admitted her client performed FMG procedures, but said they didn’t involve cutting and were done as part of a religious practice common in a small sect of Shia Muslims. The lawyer, Sarah Smith, said in court that Nagarwala removed removed membranes from the girls’ genitalia then presented them to their parents for burial.
Anjuman-e-Najmi Detroit, an organization managing the affairs of the local Dawoodi Bohra community, said in a statement Friday that it condemns the practice and encourages its members to follow U.S. law.
Nagarwala argued for bond, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoup last week concluded Nagarwala was a danger to society and a flight risk and ordered her to remain locked up pending the outcome of her case, the Detroit Free Press reported. A detention hearing was set for 1 p.m. Wednesday for the Attars, who have remained jailed since their arrest last Friday. Their lawyers will argue for bond, but prosecutors plan to ask for detention.
Nagarwala, an emergency room doctor with the Henry Ford Health System, has been placed on leave, the Free Press reported. She is not accused of performing any genital mutilation at the hospital but rather at the Livonia clinic owned by Attar, the newspaper reported. The children’s parents have not been charged.
Minnesota authorities removed both girls from their homes, though one of them has been returned to her parents, the Free Press reported. The other girl’s child protective custody case remains under seal. It is not known if she has been returned to her parents yet, the newspaper reported.
Though still practiced in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East as a means to curb girls and women’s natural sexual urges and exercise dominance in patriarchal societies, FGM has been illegal in the United States for more than two decades. Federal prosecutors said the case against Nagarwala and the Attars is believed to be the first in the United States on a federal law that criminalizes FGM.
New York City-based Human Rights Watch said, “In some societies, the prevailing myth is that girls’ sexual desires must be controlled early to preserve their virginity and prevent immorality.”
“In other communities,” the organization said, “FGM is seen as necessary to ensure marital fidelity and to prevent deviant sexual behavior.”
Two years ago, three Dawoodi Bohras faced trial in Australia in a case that raised awareness of female genital mutilation, the Detroit News reported. The case ended in prison sentences for the three, including a Dawoodi Bohra community leader.