Female Genital Mutilation Trial Underway In Michigan

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Damir Mujezinovic

Female genital mutilation is banned worldwide. It is outlawed in most American states, including Michigan, where a trial about the barbaric practice is currently underway.

A secret network of physicians was cutting little girls across the United States for years, according to federal prosecutors, but only Dr. Jumana Nagarwala is on trial.

The group was performing female genital mutilation on minor girls who belonged to their small Indian Muslim sect Dawoodi Bohras as part of a religious and cultural tradition.

Read more below.

Disturbing Details

According to prosecutors, female genital mutilation was performed in California and Illinois.

Nagarwala, they claim, even traveled to the Washington D.C. area to perform the procedure on five girls, while mothers and daughters were routinely traveling across the country for the procedure.

As The Detroit Free Press reported, Department of Justice attorney Amy Markopoulos said at the trial that the physicians were "in demand."

"This was not a discrete, one-time occasion. ... It was not arbitrary," she said, adding that "travel is often necessary to perform the procedure."

Case

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The case first emerged in 2017, but most charges were dropped with the federal female genital mutilation law being declared unconstitutional in 2018.

The case was supposed to go on trial in 2019 on a single obstruction charge, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed the proceeding. Prosecutors are now seeking new charges and alleging that Nagarwala and her collaborators lied to the FBI

They also claim that the physician instructed people in her community to lie to the authorities and withhold information if the FBI comes asking questions.

Defense

The defense is seeking to have the case dismissed and claiming that Nagarwala never cut a single girl's genitalia, but rather just "scraped" it.

"The government engaged in prosecutorial vindictiveness. The defense has systematically dismantled the government's case," defense attorney Mary Chartier argued in court.

"The government is acting with extreme prosecutorial vindictiveness in issuing yet another superseding indictment nearly half a decade after charges were first issued," the defense further argued in court filings, saying that "retaliation for the defense successfully decimating the government’s case."

Judge Bernard Friedman

It was U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman who declared the female genital mutilation ban unconstitutional in 2018 and also dismissed charges against three mothers who had the procedure performed on their children, as The New York Times reported at the time.

Friedman said that "as despicable as this practice may be," the U.S. Congress does not have the authority to outlaw it, shocking female genital mutilation survivors.

"Oh my God, this is crazy. Unfortunately, this is going to embolden those who believe that this must be continued ... they’ll feel that this is permission, that it’s OK to do this," survivor Mariya Taher said.

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