Michigan: Defense in case against Muslim doctor tries to toss female genital mutilation charges

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More than a year after her arrest in the nation’s first female genital cutting case, the defiant Dr. Jumana Nagarwala continues to pound away at the government for pursuing the case. She claims, as you can see here, that the law that’s being used to prosecute her is unconstitutional. She is also planning an Islamic religious defense.

This is a landmark case, because Jumana Nagarwala is by no means singular. The number of women and girls at risk for female genital mutilation (FGM) in the United States has more than doubled in the past 10 years. More than half a million women and girls in the U.S. are at risk of undergoing FGM in the U.S. or abroad, or have already undergone the procedure, including 166,173 under the age of 18, according to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

So why is she the only doctor being prosecuted? Why haven’t any other doctors, aside from her co-defendant Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, even been arrested?

“Defense tries to toss genital mutilation charges,” by Robert Snell, Detroit News, November 6, 2018 (thanks to RN):

Detroit — Defense lawyers tried to convince a federal judge Tuesday to dismiss female genital mutilation charges in the first criminal case of its kind nationwide, arguing the law is unconstitutional.

The bid by defense lawyers is the first challenge to a 22-year-old federal law that went unused until April 2017. That’s when Dr. Jumana Nagarwala of Northville was arrested and accused of heading a conspiracy that lasted 12 years, involved seven people and led to mutilating the genitalia of nine girls as part of a religious procedure practiced by some members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a Muslim sect from India that has a small community in Metro Detroit.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman, following an hour-long hearing in downtown Detroit, said he would file a written opinion soon.

Congress lacked authority to enact a law criminalizing female genital mutilation in 1996, Nagarwala’s lawyer Molly Sylvia Blythe told the judge. Congress lacked authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution because the procedure has nothing to do with interstate commerce, she said.

“Mutilation is not an economic activity,” she said. “It has nothing to do with commerce or an economic enterprise.”

Prosecutors countered, arguing the crime does involve interstate commerce. Christian Levesque, a trial attorney with the Justice Department’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions section, noted that the procedure involves parents using cellphones to arrange the procedure and children transported across state lines who undergo surgeries utilizing medical tools in state-licensed clinics.

“Female genital mutilation is part of a health-care service, an illicit health-care service, an illegal and detrimental health-care service,” Levesque told the judge. “All forms of female genital mutilation are an economic service at its core.”

The defense motion is the latest attempt to dismiss charges filed by federal prosecutors. In January, Friedman dismissed the most serious count against Nagarwala and co-defendant Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, a sex charge punishable by up to life in federal prison.

Prosecutors say prepubescent girls were cut at Attar’s clinic in Livonia, which was managed by his wife, Dr. Farida Attar, who also is charged in the case.

A trial is set for April 2019….

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