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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

US judge drops doctor genital mutilation charges

Globally, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have suffered some form of FGM

Rex Features Ltd. do not claim any Copyright or License of the attached image Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX/Shutterstock (8613797a) Dr Jumana Nagarwala, a physician at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, who has been charged with carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM) on young girls in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the United States. Dr Jumana Nagarwala charged with carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM), Detroit, Michigan, USA - 14 Apr 2017 Dr Jumana Nagarwala, a physician at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, who has been charged with carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM) on young girls in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the United States. It is alleged she performed the practice on girls aged between six and eight for 12 years. She was investigated following a tip-off and if found guilty could receive a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. FGM was made illegal in the US in 1996. The doctor gave a voluntary interview with investigators earlier this week and denied being involved in the procedures but prosecutors said she had performed "horrifying acts of brutality on the most vunerable victims." Some of the girls travelled from outside the state of Michigan and were told not to talk about the procedure. Dr Nagarwala appeared at federal court in Detroit and was remanded in custody.
Rex Features Ltd. do not claim any Copyright or License of the attached image Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX/Shutterstock (8613797a) Dr Jumana Nagarwala, a physician at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, who has been charged with carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM) on young girls in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the United States. Dr Jumana Nagarwala charged with carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM), Detroit, Michigan, USA - 14 Apr 2017 Dr Jumana Nagarwala, a physician at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, who has been charged with carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM) on young girls in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the United States. It is alleged she performed the practice on girls aged between six and eight for 12 years. She was investigated following a tip-off and if found guilty could receive a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. FGM was made illegal in the US in 1996. The doctor gave a voluntary interview with investigators earlier this week and denied being involved in the procedures but prosecutors said she had performed "horrifying acts of brutality on the most vunerable victims." Some of the girls travelled from outside the state of Michigan and were told not to talk about the procedure. Dr Nagarwala appeared at federal court in Detroit and was remanded in custody.

A US judge has dropped federal female genital mutilation charges filed against a Michigan doctor, ruling that Congress overstepped its authority in prohibiting a practice best left to state courts.

In what was hailed a landmark case, Jumana Nagarwala was charged in April 2017 with performing the widely condemned practice on nine girls at a clinic in Livonia, Michigan over a span of 12 years.

But in a decision filed Tuesday, Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that Congress had "overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit FGM."

Instead the practice should be considered a "'local criminal activity' which, in keeping with longstanding tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress," he wrote.

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Congress passed a law in 1996 making it illegal to perform genital mutilation or cutting on any girl younger than 18.

Twenty-seven US states also have anti-FGM legislation, including Michigan, while 23 states have not criminalised the practice.

"As despicable as this practice may be, it is essentially a criminal assault," wrote Judge Friedman.

The judge's ruling saw charges of conspiring to commit and committing FGM dropped, as well as counts of aiding and abetting others to do so.

Ms Nagarwala still faces other conspiracy charges.

Her lawyer, Shannon Smith, was quoted by CNN as saying that her client was "ecstatic" over the decision, but "nervous because she still faces other charges in federal court."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that 513,000 women and girls in the United States in 2012 were at risk of or had been subjected to female genital mutilation.

The statistic was three times higher than one based on 1990 data, due to increased immigration from countries where genital mutilation is practiced.

Globally, at least 200 million girls and women alive today have suffered some form of FGM across 30 countries, according to the United Nations.

While concentrated in Africa, it is common in some communities in Asia, Arab states and Latin America. Half of those cut live in Egypt, Ethiopia and Indonesia, according to the UN.