Detroit Doctor Accused of Genital Mutilation on Young Girls

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Livonia, Michigan – A Detroit area doctor has been charged with performing genital mutilation on a number of 6- to 8-year-old girls as a part of a religious and cultural practice at a medical clinic in Livonia, in what’s believed to be the first federal prosecution of its kind within the U.S.

In accordance with the criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit, two of the victims’ parents brought them to the clinic from Minnesota, pretending it was a “special” girls trip,  and later instructed the girls to keep what was happening a secret.

The accused is Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Northville, an emergency room physician at Henry Ford Hospital. The federal government states she is a member of a religious and cultural community that practices genital mutilation on young girls and women to curb their sexuality in an attempt to cut back sexual pleasure and promiscuity.  In the U.S., genital mutilation qualifies as a criminal sexual act as the intent of the procedure is considered to abuse, humiliate, harass or degrade.

Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. The practice is found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and within communities from countries in which FGM is common. UNICEF estimated in 2016 that 200 million women living today in 30 countries—27 African countries, Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen—have undergone the procedures.[3]

Typically carried out by a traditional circumciser using a blade, FGM is conducted from days after birth to puberty and beyond. In half the countries for which national figures are available, most girls are cut before the age of five.[5] Procedures differ according to the country or ethnic group. They include removal of the clitoral hood and clitoral glans; removal of the inner labia; and removal of the inner and outer labia and closure of the vulva. In this last procedure, known as infibulation, a small hole is left for the passage of urine and menstrual fluid; the vagina is opened for intercourse and opened further for childbirth.[6]

The practice is rooted in gender inequality, attempts to control women’s sexuality, and ideas about purity, modesty and beauty. It is usually initiated and carried out by women, who see it as a source of honour, and who fear that failing to have their daughters and granddaughters cut will expose the girls to social exclusion.[7] Health effects depend on the procedure. They can include recurrent infections, difficulty urinating and passing menstrual flow, chronic pain, the development of cysts, an inability to get pregnant, complications during childbirth, and fatal bleeding.[6] There are no known health benefits.[8]

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Nagarwala, a U.S. citizen who additionally speaks Gujarati, a language spoken in western India, appeared in federal court in Detroit yesterday handcuffed and shackled, wearing a white headscarf, glasses  and long white dress with colorful embroidery near her shackled feet.  She agreed to stay locked up pending a detention hearing on Monday, when a judge will decide whether or not to grant her bond or hold her jailed pending the end result of her trial.

Two male family members had been in the courtroom, however stated nothing to reporters. Her lawyer, Bloomfield Hills attorney Shannon Smith, declined comment.

Her employer, Henry Ford Health System, expressed concern in regards to the allegations and stated Nagarwala has been placed on administrative leave.

“We are shocked by the allegations,” Henry Ford Health System spokesman David Olejarz stated in statement, stressing: “the alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility. We would never support or condone anything related to this practice.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office says this is the first such criminal case within the country, with prosecutors relying on a law that criminalizes the practice of female genitalia mutilation, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. The doctor, nevertheless, might get 10-years  to life in prison for another crime she was charged with: Transportation of an individual with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Sheila Deville

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Sheila Deville

I'm just a fun loving girl who loves her family and friends and likes to have a good time.

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