A Michigan doctor has been arrested after she allegedly performed an illegal genital cutting procedure on two 7-year-old girls.
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala reportedly performed the procedure in an unnamed medical clinic in Michgan and was arrested April 12, reports The New York Times. She is being held on charges of transporting minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and lying to federal agents, in addition to the charges for the procedure itself.
Genital cutting procedures have been illegal in the U.S. since 1996, although the original law did not prevent against "vacation cutting," a phenomenon in which parents would send their female children overseas to have the procedure, according to Equality Now. The law was amended in 2013 to make "vacation cutting" illegal.
"Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims,” Kenneth A. Blanco, an acting assistant attorney general with 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."
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According to the World Health Organization, more than 200 million girls and women have been victims of female genital mutilation. WHO also estimates at least 3 million girls face the procedure every year, with most of them under the age of 15.
Nagarwala serves as an emergency medicine practitioner at Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital, and a spokesperson for the hospital made it clear the alleged criminal procedure was not carried out at the hospital, and that the hospital does not support or condone the activity whatsoever, according to The New York Times.
The hospital has placed the doctor on administrative leave.
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"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 Daniel Lemisch in a statement issued by the Department of Justice.
"The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law."
Female genital mutilation involves complete or partial removal of female genitalia. It is often performed without the use of an anesthetic and can leave victims at a higher risk for infections and complications during birth, according to Equality Now.
"The allegations against the defendant in this investigation are made even more deplorable, given the defendant’s position as a trusted medical professional in the community," said Steve Francis, a Homeland Security agent, in the DOJ statement. "My sincere hope is that these charges will give support to those who have allegedly suffered both physically and emotionally."