A Detroit-area emergency room doctor is being accused of mutilating the genitals of two 7-year-old girls in what is believed to be the first criminal case brought by U.S. prosecutors under a law banning the painful and gruesome practice.
Jumana Nagarwala, 44, was charged in federal district court in Detroit with female genital mutilation, transportation with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and making a false statement to a federal officer, according to court records, the Washington Post reports.
In a criminal complaint, FBI Special Agent Kevin J. Swanson claims that the two young girls came with their parents from Minnesota to Michigan so that Nagarwala could perform the procedure on the girls in early 2017. Investigators have also identified other children who may have fallen victim to the horrific practice between 2005 and 2007, authorities say.
The Justice Department believes that the case is the first brought under a specific U.S. law that prohibits and criminalizes the practice.
“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 in a 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.”
The complaint against Nagarwala alleges that the doctor was part of a particular religious and cultural community that is known to use the procedure. The complaint did not name the community.
Nagarwala is an emergency room doctor at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, but the mutilation was conducted elsewhere, at a medical clinic in Livonia, Mich.
“We would never support or condone anything related to this practice,” the Henry Ford Health System said in a statement, adding that Nagarwala has been placed on administrative leave.
One of the 7-year-old victims told investigators that she was brought to Michigan for a “special” girls’ trip and was taken to see Nagarwala. The other 7-year-old said that she got a painful “shot” and that her parents told her not to talk about it, according to the criminal complaint.
The girl recounted that she could barely walk after the procedure. Other doctors later examined the children and saw evidence of the genital mutilation. The parents of one of the children said that they had taken her to Detroit for a “cleansing” of extra skin, according to authorities.
Special Agent in Charge David P. Gelios of the FBI’s Detroit Division called the allegations “disturbing” and said that the FBI was “committed to doing whatever necessary to bring an end to this barbaric practice and to ensure no additional children fall victim to this procedure.”
It is not clear how many other girls may have suffered from Nagarwala’s alleged procedures. At least two parents acknowledged that the doctor had performed the procedure on their daughters, while others denied any knowledge of it.
Nagarwala herself told investigators that she was aware the practice was illegal and that she did not know of anyone practicing it in her community, adding that she did not do it herself.
Read more at the Washington Post.