In the United States in 2012, an estimated 513,000 women and girls were at risk of being subjected to female genital mutilation, which was more than twice the risk calculated from 1990 data. The procedure was outlawed by Congress in 1996 and is now seen as an international human rights violation, but the increase in the number of women and girls younger than 18 years of age at risk for female genital mutilation was more than four times that of previous estimates.
Recently, two Detroit-area doctors were indicted after performing female genital mutilation on two girls. Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife, Farida Attar, 50, were arrested at their medical office in Livonia, Michigan, west of Detroit, and charged with conspiracy, female genital mutilation and aiding and abetting. Detroit emergency room physician Jumana Nagarwala, 44, was also arrested and is currently in jail awaiting trial.
The physicians’ reasoning behind the practices have to do with their religious beliefs. They are members of a “religious and cultural community.” Within this community, female genital mutilation is a normal practice intended to counteract female sexuality. 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Tragically, we see that young girls are still forced to endure this painful procedure even though it is painful and proven to have no health benefits.
This case will be the first federal case of FGM in the United States. The defendants and their religious group argue that there was no cutting involved, and it was just a ritual removal of some tissue that would later be given to the girls’ parents for a ceremonial burial. The process is technically described as complete or partial removal of the clitoris, which is why the accused are denying the charges brought against them.
The two victims were between the ages of 6 and 8, and were brought from out of state by their parents. Onlookers saw them arrive at the Burhani Medical Clinic with their mothers. When interviewed, one of the girls told officers that she was being brought there for a “special girls’ trip,” and the other said she was told the doctors needed to “get the germs out.” Both girls were instructed by their parents not to discuss the procedure with anyone else. The FBI suspects that there may be more girls at risk and has set up a hotline that can be reached by the public: 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5984). Alternately, if you have any information, an e-tip can be filed at FBI.gov/FGM.
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