An India-born doctor and his wife along with another Indian-origin woman doctor have been indicted by a grand jury in the US for allegedly performing genital mutilation on two girls, in a first-of-its kind federal prosecution in the country.
Fakhruddin Attar, 53, his wife, Farida Attar, 50, both from Michigan state, were yesterday charged with conspiring to perform female genital mutilations (FGM) on minor girls out of Attar's medical clinic in Livonia. The Attars were arrested on April 21.
They were charged with helping another Indian-origin doctor Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Michigan, in performing genital mutilation on two 7-year-old girls in February at a clinic owned by Fakhruddin.
The federal indictment alleges the trio also tried to obstruct the investigation by telling other people to make false statement to authorities. The doctors are also accused of lying to investigators.
Unless they work out a plea deal, the three accused are headed to trial now, Detroit Free Press reported.
Nagarwala, Fakhruddin and Farida are believed to be the first people charged under federal US law, which criminalises FGM.
Genital mutilation, also known as cutting, has been condemned by the United Nations and outlawed in the United States. But the practice is common for girls in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
According to an online physician directory, Fakhruddin graduated from the Baroda Medical College in Gujarat, India in 1988.
The charges say that Nagarwala used to perform the medical procedure on minor girls at Burhani Medical Clinic (BMC) in Michigan that was owned and operated by Fakhruddin.
Fakhruddin's wife was employed at BMC as an officer manager.
The compliant against the Attars said that the couple arranged and assisted in the female genital mutilation of minor females performed by Nagarwala. While they allowed their clinic to be used by Nagarwala to perform the procedures, Farida assisted Nagarwala during the female genital mutilation procedures.
Fakhruddin told federal agents this month that he has known Nagarwala and she occasionally saw patients at his clinic even though she was not employed there. He said Nagarwala only saw the patients at BMC when the clinic was closed and that Farida used to be present in the examining room while Nagarwala treated the minor girls.
The investigation revealed that several minor girls informed forensic personnel that Nagarwala had performed procedures on their genitals and one minor girl said Farida had been present when Nagarwala did the FGM procedures.
According to the complaint, some of the minor victims travelled interstate to have the procedure performed. The complaint alleges that the FGM procedure was performed on girls who were approximately six to eight years old.
The number of girls under 18 at risk for FGM in the US has quadrupled since 1997. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 513,000 women and girls are at risk of FGM in the US. FGM has been a crime under federal law since 1996 and is punishable by up to five years in prison, however FGM is not a crime in 26 US states, including Michigan.
The complaint filed against Nagarwala last week had said federal agents reviewed her telephone records and further investigation revealed that parents of two minor girls had travelled to Michigan.
The girls were later interviewed by a forensic expert and one of the girls said she was told she was coming to Detroit for a "special" girls trip, but after arriving at the hotel, she learned that she and the other girl had to go to the doctor because "our tummies hurt." The girls had been taken to Nagarwala, who performed the procedure on the girls.
The World Health Organisation said female genital mutilation comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
More than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. WHO said FGM, which is mostly carried out on young girls between infancy and age 15, is a violation of the human rights of girls and women.