Posted on September 19, 2021

Detroit’s Historic Female Genital Cutting Case Is in Limbo

Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, September 15, 2021

Nearly five years after it emerged, the nation’s first female genital mutilation case has taken yet another turn in a heated feud between a government that says children were unlawfully cut and a doctor who says she only “scraped” young girls as part of a religious practice.


In March, the government issued its fourth superseding — or new —indictment that includes a fresh batch of charges, including conspiracy to make false statements and witness tampering. Prosecutors allege that Dr. Jumana Nagarwala and and her three cohorts lied to the FBI about FGM that was going on in their community, and instructed others in their religious sect to do the same if the FBI came asking questions.

The defendants are all members of a small Indian Muslim sect known as the Dawoodi Bohra, which has a mosque in Farmington Hills. The sect practices female circumcision and believes it is a religious rite of passage that involves only a minor “nick.”


A hearing will be held on that request Wednesday morning before U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, who declared the FGM ban unconstitutional and previously dismissed all but one count. A new and tougher federal FGM law has since been passed and carries a maximum 15-year prison sentence.

Prosecutors allege that nine girls — four from Michigan, two from Minnesota and three from Illinois — underwent FGM during after-hours at a Livonia clinic at the hands of Dr. Jumana Nagarwala. Her co-defedants are: Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, the owner of the Livonia clinic where the FGM allegedly took place; his wife Farida Attar, who is accused of being in the room and holding the girls’ hands during the procedures; and Fatema Dahodwala, the mother of one of the alleged victims.

The prosecution took a major blow in 2018 when Friedman ruled that the federal law banning FGM was unconstitutional, concluding Congress lacked the power to regulate the act to begin with. Friedman dismissed the mutilation charges and removed four defendants from the case, which sparked outcry and triggered a new Michigan law banning FGM.

Friedman’s ruling also dismissed charges against three mothers, including two Minnesota women whom prosecutors said tricked their 7 -year-old daughters into thinking they were coming to metro Detroit for a girls’ weekend, but instead had their genitals cut at a Livonia clinic as part of a religious procedure.


While the case involves nine minor girls, prosecutors have argued that Nagarwala subjected as many as 100 minor girls to FGM procedures over a decade, including one girl who screamed, “could barely walk after the procedure, and said that she felt pain all the way down to her ankle.” {snip}