The Department of Justice has brought charges against a Michigan doctor after the FBI submitted a criminal complaint to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan alleging that the doctor performed procedures on minor females that violate a statute criminalizing female genital mutilation. In the criminal complaint, the FBI complainant also categorized the procedure performed by the Michigan doctor as a “criminal sexual activity.” Reportedly, the DOJ charged Dr. Jumana Nagarwala accordingly.
The affidavit stated supportive evidence that Jumana Nagarwala should be charged with “transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity” in addition to a charge of “female genital mutilation.” According to the FBI agent’s statement, when Nagarwala removed part of the prepuce from young girls’ genitalia, it constituted an illegal sexual act, because one purpose of FGM is to “curb the sexuality of girls and women.”
On one victim, with a coded identity of MN-V-2, the doctor allegedly made a small incision on the victim’s clitoral hood and a small tear to her labia minora. The parents of this victim told Minnesota authorities that they took their daughter to see Dr. Nagarwala for a “cleansing” of extra skin. Another victim, known as MN-V-1, was found to have an altered labia minora and an abnormal-looking clitoral hood. MN-V-1 said that MN-V-1 and MN-V-2 had to go to the doctor because their “tummies hurt” and that the procedure would “get the germs out.” Nagarwala will probably claim that the FGM surgery was not performed to curb the girls’ sexuality, but rather to keep the area cleaner and prevent urinary tract infections.
The agent’s complaint further muddied waters that have already been increasingly muddy. Across the United States, human rights advocates sometimes called “intactivists” have consistently declared that it is unfair that the United States protects girls from genital mutilation, but does not protect boys from circumcision. Generally, the argument has been that female genital mutilation is much crueler than male circumcision, because of the amount of tissue that is removed from girls during procedures completed to abuse girls. Now, we read an FBI agent’s complaint stating that the procedures done to two female victims constitute illegal sexual acts on the part of the doctor, even though the procedures may or may not have been done to prevent urinary tract infections, given the victims’ statements.
Then, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said that “Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims,” even though the amount of tissue removed from the victims’ genitals, from the FBI agent’s complaint, was not the entire prepuce as is usually the case with male circumcision.
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, of Northville, Michigan, allegedly performed these genital mutilation procedures out of a medical office in Livonia, according to KFOR News. Dr. Nagarwala worked in emergency medicine at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Henry Ford Hospital has placed her on administrative leave and condemned the procedures the doctor allegedly performed.
“The alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility,” David Olejarz, a spokesman for the Henry Ford Health System, said in an email to the New York Times. “We would never support or condone anything related to this practice.”
Henry Ford Health System’s website states, “America is one of the few industrialized countries to routinely circumcise infants for non-religious reasons.” Still, the hospital does perform male circumcision and chances are good that Henry Ford’s spokesman already regrets making the claim that the hospital would never condone “anything related to this practice.”
Men who wish that their genitals had been left intact are pretty sick of the continual lack of validation by the American medical community, according to an online discussion on the Practical Ethics forum at University of Oxford.
“Indeed, Western societies don’t seem to think that ‘health benefits’ are particularly relevant to the question of whether we should be cutting off parts of the external genitalia of healthy girls. Without the girl’s consent, or a medical diagnosis, it’s seen as impermissible no matter what. By contrast, a small and insistent group of (mostly American) scientists have taken it upon themselves to promote infant male circumcision, by conducting study after well-funded study to determine just what kinds of ‘health benefits’ might follow from cutting off parts of the penis. Why is there a double standard here?”
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala might spend her life in prison for performing genital mutilation procedures on girls. She has essentially been accused of criminal sexual activity. If convicted, this case will also lay the foundation for the end of the legal, routine circumcision of infant males. The Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has a clause guaranteeing all people equal protection of the law. See, Dr. Nagarwala’s case is the very first case using the FGM statute in federal court, according to ABC News.
If Dr. Nagarwala is convicted, her case will set a precedent that, thanks to gender equality rights, could bring the practice of male circumcision in the United States to a furious, sweeping halt.
[Featured Image by Peggy and Marco Lachmann-Anke/Pixabay]