A Muslim doctor in Michigan has been charged with performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on two young girls from Minnesota as part of a religious "extra cleansing of skin."
According to reports, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Northville, Michigan, was arrested Thursday, days after two seven-year-old girls identified her as the person who performed the illegal procedure on them at a Livonia clinic in February.
Nagarwala, who is part of a Gujarati-speaking Muslim community in Michigan, is charged with female genital mutilation, a five-year felony, and transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, a 10-year felony, according to the complaint. She's also charged with making a false statement to a federal officer.
The FBI said that the doctor, who denied performing genital mutilation, is a member of a "cultural community" that believes in the practice.
Federal officials launched an investigation after being tipped off that Nagarwala performed the procedure on two young girls who were brought by their families from Minnesota for the procedure.
A child forensic interviewer talked to one of the girls, who said she was brought to Detroit with a second girl for a "special girls' trip," and was told to keep the trip secret. The girls were first taken to a doctor because "their tummies hurt," and while at the doctor's office, a procedure 'to get the germs out,' was performed on the first girl.
"(The girl) said that after the procedure, she could barely walk, and that she felt pain all the way down to her ankle," said an FBI agent.
When questioned, the girl's' parents admitted to law enforcement that they traveled to see the doctor for "extra cleansing of skin."
Agents have identified other children who may have been victimized by the doctor between 2005 and 2007, including children in Michigan.
Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch said in a statement: "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."
"According to the complaint, despite her oath to care for her patients, Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims," acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department's Criminal Division added.
The World Health Organization notes that FGM is an illegal practice that involves the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia for non-medical reasons.
The ritual, which can cause severe bleeding, infections, as well as complications in childbirth, is carried out for various reasons, such as the belief that the procedure reduces a woman's libido and decreases the risk of extramarital sexual affairs, and is linked to African non-Christian religions and traditions.
UNICEF data reveals that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. FGM is mostly carried out on girls and infants below the age of 15 - often by their own mothers - and is considered a violation of human rights.
A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in 2012 found that roughly 513,000 women and girls in the US were at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation, which was more than three times higher than an earlier estimate based on 1990 data.
"This is a form of child abuse," said Shelby Quast, director of Equality Now's Americas Office. "We are encouraged seeing a doctor charged with FGM, because this will have a big impact on others who are performing this illegal act," she said.
"This sends a message to other doctors that if you violate the law, you will be arrested, and you will be prosecuted."