Detroit doctor faces life in prison for 'carrying out female genital mutilation on young girls'

Officials decry 'horrifying acts of brutality' in America's first federal FGM case

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The Independent US

A Detroit doctor is facing life in prison after being charged with performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on two young girls.

Dr Jumana Nagarwala, 44, is alleged to have performed the “horrifying” practice on young children for 12 years. 

The federal case is the first of its kind in the US, where FGM was banned in 1996.

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An investigation began after the authorities were informed of Dr Nagarwala’s alleged activities. 

Dr Nagarwala has denied the charges but was remanded in custody after a court appearance. If found guilty, she could be given a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Acting assistant attorney general Kenneth Blanco said: "Despite her oath to care for her patients, Dr Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims."

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Acting US attorney Daniel Lemisch added: "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.

"The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law."

The charges against Dr Nagarwala relate to two young Minnesota girls who travelled to Michigan with their mothers. 

A winter glove belonging to one of the seven-year-old girls was found at the clinic Dr Nagarwala is alleged to have operated from, in the Livonia suburb of Detroit. 

The parents of that child told investigators they took her to Detroit to see Dr Nagarwala "for a 'cleansing' of extra skin," FBI agent Kevin Swanson said. 

Both girls reportedly identified a photo of Dr Nagarwala to investigators. 

Consensus among the medical community is that the practice of removing or injuring female genital organs has no known health benefits. Yet it has been performed on more than 200 million women and girls in 30 countries, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

"It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children," according to the WHO. 

Dr Nagarwala, a 1998 graduate of Johns Hopkins medical school in Baltimore, has been placed on leave at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit where she is an emergency room doctor. 

"The alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility. We would never support or condone anything related to this practice," hospital spokesman David Olejarz said. 

Additional reporting by AP

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