DETROIT — A Michigan emergency room physician has been charged with allegedly performing female genital mutilation on young girls, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.
In a news release, the DOJ said Jumana Nagarwala, of Northville, Mich., allegedly performed the procedures out of a medical office in Livonia, Mich., on girls who were 6 to 8 years old.
According to the complaint filed, two of the parents confirmed to investigators were aware that Nagarwala did the procedure, but others denied knowledge of the procedure or said it didn’t happen.
The news release said this is believed to be the first case under the law that criminalizes female genital mutilation.
Nagarwala was arrested and appeared in federal court in Detroit on Thursday afternoon, according to the release.
“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,” acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said.
“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.”
“It is a form of sexual control, but it’s touted in a way that people who might believe in it think they’re doing it for the good of the girl,” activist Mariya Taher said.
Court records show authorities in Minnesota were alerted after the 7-year-old had a doctor’s visit just days ago. It appeared the girl suffered horrific cuts and she was in pain.
A sweeping FBI investigation found cellphone records showing Nagarwala and the girl’s family conspiring to fool the girl, telling her she was going on a “girls trip” only to be delivered to a medical office in Livonia, where Nagarwala is accused of performing the procedure.
“There needs to be a lot of education also in the medical community too around this issue, and that this is something that we do need to have zero tolerance that this can’t be acceptable amongst any health professionals,” Taher said.
Nagarwala said she knows genital mutilation is illegal and denies performing it. The medical system that employs her put her on administrative leave.
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in 2012 found that roughly 513,000 women and girls in the U.S. were at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation, which was more than three times higher than an earlier estimate based on 1990 data.