Female Genital Mutilation is something that the average American only hears about in news about other countries. In fact, it’s neither customary, nor legal to alter the genitalia of an underaged girl here in the US, and so it simply isn’t something that makes the local news very often. Yet, if Homeland Security and Child Protective Services are correct, it may have happened innumerable times, right here in Michigan, where an Indian-American doctor is alleged to have performed multiple genital cuttings on young girls.
44-year-old Jumana Nagarwala of Northville practices emergency medicine at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Since the allegations have been made public, the Hospital has placed her on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. A spokesman for the hospital said that none of the alleged mutilations occurred at any Henry Ford facility, and that the hospital would never support or condone anything related to female genital mutilation.
According to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, Nagarwala is accused of performing genital cuttings on two victims. The girls explained during interviews with Homeland Security agents and CPS workers, that they had been taken to the doctor, where they lay on an examination table while Nagawala performed the procedure. One girl says the pain was excruciating, and that she could hardly sit afterwards.
In a statement made by Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco, he explained the allegations and the government’s stance on FGM. “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. 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.”
Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been illegal in the United States since 1996.
However, in 2013 that law was amended to include what is sometimes called “vacation cutting”, which refers to taking a minor out of the country to have the practice performed in another country. There are numerous other countries worldwide where FGM is still legally carried out.
Since the first two victims shared their testimony with authorities, other potential victims have been located. According to the criminal complaint, the procedures were performed on 6 to 8-year-old girls at a medical office in Livonia. Victims, one of whom was brought to Michigan from Minnesota for the procedure, were told not to talk to anyone about what happened to them. This is considered by most law enforcement personnel and mental health experts to be a form of child abuse.
Nagawala appeared in the U.S. District Court yesterday, where she was charged with multiple felonies. The charges include Performing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) on Minors, Transportation With Intent to Engage in Criminal Sexual Activity, and Making False Statements to a Federal Officer. The last charge was brought as a result of the fact that Nagawala denied the allegations during an interview with law enforcement.
Female genital mutilation, also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the surgical removal of parts or all of a girl’s external genitals. It is performed primarily for the purposes of reducing female sexual desires, and minimizing instances of promiscuity later in life. However, health effects often include recurring infections, fatal bleeding, difficulty urinating menstruating, chronic pain, cysts, an inability to become pregnant, and severe complications during childbirth. The World Health Organization calls all forms of genital mutilation an “injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”