PBS – The first federal charges of female genital mutilation have been dismissed by a federal judge, whose ruling also declared the U.S. law banning the practice unconstitutional.
In his 28-page decision, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said Congress “overstepped its bounds” in prohibiting the practice in 1996, adding that FGM is a “’local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with long-standing tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.”
The judge’s decision voided the charges of FGM and conspiracy against two Michigan doctors accused of cutting at least nine minor girls in a Detroit clinic: Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, the Michigan physician accused of performing FGM on the girls, and Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, who was accused of allowing Nagarwala use his clinic for the procedures.
“Muslim women are more likely to have their daughter circumcised …” Religious Differences in Female Genital Cutting, National Institutes of Health
Friedman also dismissed charges against two mothers accused of assisting in the procedures, as well as four mothers accused of bringing their daughters to the clinic for the practice, some across state lines.
The defendants of the case are all members of the Indian Muslim Dawoodi Bohra community, which practices a minor form of FGM as a religious rite of passage.
Here’s what the judge’s ruling means for a practice that has been outlawed by more than 50 countries.
A serious blow to a historic case
FGM, the partial or complete removal of the clitoris for nonmedical reasons, is a criminal offense in 27 U.S. states. Michigan passed a ban last year against the practice, soon after the first federal case was opened in that state.
Michigan’s law made the practice punishable for up to 15 years in prison, while the federal law dictates a sentence of up to five years in prison. Since the federal case began in April 2017, the defendants can’t be retroactively charged under the new state law. Read more.