Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, September 13, 2018
The federal government has found three more female genital mutilation victims who traveled to Michigan for the procedure — all of them elementary school girls from Illinois who came here with their mothers for religious cuttings, prosecutors say.
All three Illinois girls were about 7 years old at the time of the procedures, according to a new indictment filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit, where eight people are facing charges in the nation’s first genital mutilation case, including two doctors and four mothers.
Prosecutors have now identified nine victims in the case: two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota; four Michigan girls ages 8-12, and the three Illinois girls.
According to the new indictment, one of the Michigan girls was given Valium ground up in liquid Tylenol during her procedure in 2015.
The lead defendant in the case is Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 45, of Northville, whom prosecutors have estimated performed genital mutilation on at least 100 girls over a 12-year-period.
But this time around, the prosecution added in a tweaked version of that crime, accusing Nagarwala of “illicit sexual conduct” as opposed to “sexual activity.” This charge involves the 2017 cuttings involving the two Minnesota girls who described the procedures as painful.
Both girls were told to keep the procedures a secret, court records show. One said “the doctor made her (friend) cry.”
Nagarwala’s lawyer, Shannon Smith, declined comment. She has long maintained that her client never engaged in female genital mutilation, but rather performed a benign procedure that involves a scraping of the genitalia. The procedure, the defense has argued, is a religious practice of the Dawoodi Bohra, a small-Indian Muslim sect of which Nagarwala and her codefendants are members of.
The defense also is challenging the 1996 law that criminalized female genital mutilation in the United States, alleging it is unconstitutional. It carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.
The case involves allegations that Nagarwala and others for years subjected children to genital mutilation procedures out of a Livonia medical clinic during after hours, and went to great lengths to keep it secret. Her codefendants are Dr. Fakhuruddin Attar, who is accused of letting her use his Livonia clinic to carry out the procedures; and his wife, Farida Attar, who is accused of assisting Nagarwala in the examination room during the procedures.
A fourth woman, Tahera Shafiq, also is charged with assisting in the exam room. The other four defendants are mothers, accused of subjecting their children to the practice.
According to court records, Nagarwala and the Attars instructed members of their religious community not to speak about the genital cutting procedures that had taken place.
Prosecutors have argued that the federal genital mutilation law is clear: It prohibits “knowingly circumcis(ing), excis(ing) or infibulat(ing) the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of any other person who has not attained the age of 18 years.”