An emergency physician from Michigan has been arrested on charges she performed genital mutilation procedures on multiple girls between the ages of 6 and 8, which prosecutors say could be the first criminal case involving the practice since it was outlawed in the U.S. in 1996.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern Division of Michigan, Jumana Nagarwala, MD, of Northville, Michigan, cut the genitals of victims who had allegedly traveled from out of state, earning her the charge of transportation of an individual with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. The offense carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, while the act of genital mutilation is punishable by up to five years behind bars.
“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 Blanco 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 Detroit Free Press reported Nagarwala is a member of a religious and cultural community that forces young women to undergo genital cutting to “curb their sexuality in an attempt to reduce sexual pleasure and promiscuity.” According to the complaint, the case brought to court involves two Minnesota girls brought to Michigan by their parents under the guise of a trip. Using the excuse that their “tummies hurt,” they were allegedly brought to a clinic in Livionia, Michigan, where Nagarwala performed the illegal procedure.
When a Minnesota doctor examined the girls earlier in the week, the physician reported to the FBI their genitals had been “removed or altered.”
Nagarwala earned her medical degree from John Hopkins University and is employed by Henry Ford Health System, which placed her on administrative leave after she was charged.
“The alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility,” system spokesman David Olejarz said to the New York Times. “We would never support or condone anything related to this practice.”