An Indian American emergency room doctor practicing at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, was arrested April 12 and charged with performing genital mutilation on two seven-year-old girls from Minnesota.
According to the criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Jumana Nagarwala was charged with violating a law that prohibits female genital mutilation – also known as clitoridectomy – and for transporting the girls with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. The complaint defines sexual activity in this case as “the touching of genitalia with the intent to abuse, humiliate, harass or degrade.”
“Nagarwala’s removal of clitoral skin from seven-year-old minor females is a sexual activity that violates both state and federal law,” noted FBI special agent Kevin Swanson in the criminal complaint.
Female genital mutilation involves partial or total removal of a girl’s clitoris, and – in some cases – the skin surrounding the clitoris and the inner folds of the vulva.
According to UNICEF, 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East allow female genital mutilation. Somalia has the highest number of girls who have experienced genital mutilation; Minnesota is home to one of the largest populations of Somalis in the U.S.
The ritual is practiced in an attempt to suppress female sexuality and promiscuity, and to keep a girl “pure” until she is married, according to a UNICEF report, which notes that the practice is growing in the U.S., along with the growing number of immigrants.
Nagarwala may have performed other genital mutilations in 2005 and 2007, according to the complaint. FBI agents said they had interviewed several minor girls who told them that they had been subjected to the procedure by Nagarwala.
Nagarwala could not be reached for comment. She has been placed on administrative leave from the Henry Ford Hospital. The doctor did not perform the FGMs at the hospital, but did the surgeries at an unnamed clinic in Livonia, Michigan.
The two girls – who are identified as MN-V-1 and MN-V-2 – told federal agents they had been brought to Detroit by their parents on Feb. 3 for a “special girls” trip. They were then taken to a doctor’s office to “get the germs out” of their tummy. One of the victims told agents she was told to take off her clothing and lie on an examining table with her knees to her chest and her legs spread apart.
She testified that Nagarwala “pinched” her on the “place where she goes pee.” She was then given a pad to wear in her underwear and told not to talk to anyone about the doctor’s visit.
The second victim told FBI agents that Nagarwala took off her pants and underwear and placed her on an examining table. She then “got a shot,” and allegedly screamed. The young girl told agents that the shot was on her right upper thigh, and that she bled afterwards on the examining table. Her parents told her that the procedure was a secret and that she was not allowed to talk about it.
The second victim told agents that – after the procedure – she could barely walk and felt pain all the way down to her ankle.
Child Protective Services and federal agents interviewed the parents after a glove of the second victim was found at the clinic. The parents said they had taken their girls for a “cleansing of extra skin,” according to the criminal complaint.
Nagarwala was interviewed by federal agents on April 10, and denied having performed the mutilations. She has also been charged with lying to federal agents.
“Despite her oath to care for her patients, Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims,” said Acting Assistant Attorney of the Eastern District of Michigan General Blanco, in a press statement. “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 constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls. It is also a serious federal felony in the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney of the Eastern District of Michigan Daniel Lemisch. “The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law,” he said.