Violence Against Women

Judge Rules US Ban on Female Genital Mutilation Unconstitutional

This week a judge ruled that the U.S. federal female genital mutilation law is unconstitutional, dismissing charges against a Michigan doctor accused of performing female genital mutilation on at least nine young girls between the ages of 8 and 13.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was charged with performing female genital mutilation at least nine times from 2005 to April 2017. According to the prosecutors, Dr. Attar, an internal medicine physician, allowed Nagarwala, an emergency room physician, to perform the illegal procedures at his clinic with the help of his wife. However, the judge did not drop the charges of conspiring to travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct and conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding. Dr. Attar, his wife, and five others were charged as well.

Judge Bernard Friedman ruled in his decision that “Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit [female genital mutilation.” He instead called female genital mutilation “local criminal activity” and argued it must be regulated by the states, not Congress. He dismissed Nagarwala’s charges of conspiring to commit and committing female genital mutilation, and aiding and abetting others in doing so.

The United Nations Population Fund defines female genital mutilation as “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons.” Forty-four countries, including the United States, currently ban the practice by law. The World Health Organization views female genital mutilation as a human rights violation.

It is expected that the US government will appeal the judges’ decision.


Media resources: CNN 11/20/18

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