Two 7-year-old girls were taken by their families from Minnesota to Michigan and underwent genital mutilation at the hands of a Detroit-area doctor, according to federal prosecutors, who allege that the physician had been conducting this “horrifying” procedure for many years.
Jumana Nagarwala, 44, of Northville, Mich., was charged in U.S. District Court in Detroit with female genital mutilation, transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and making a false statement to a federal officer.
Under questioning Monday by a federal agent, Nagarwala said she was aware of the procedure being illegal and denied the allegations. A message from the Star Tribune was left with her attorney Thursday seeking reaction to the charges.
The Justice Department said the case is believed to be the first brought under U.S. law that criminalized female genital mutilation. The World Health Organization has long held that the cultural and religious practice is a human rights violation and is carried out for the purpose of stifling female sexuality.
Nagarwala heard the allegations during a brief appearance in U.S. District Court and was returned to jail to await another hearing Monday. Prosecutors want to keep her locked up without bond.
According to the charging document:
On Feb. 3, two women brought two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota to a hotel in Farmington Hills, a Detroit suburb for a “special” girls trip.
One of the girls told a federal investigator in an interview Monday that she and the other girl needed to see a doctor because “our tummies hurt.”
While at the doctor’s office, a procedure to “get the germs out” of her was performed by Nagarwala, the girl said. The girl was told to keep the procedure a secret.
On Tuesday, a doctor in Minnesota examined the girl and saw physical evidence consistent with genital mutilation.
The second girl told authorities a similar story and explained how she “got a shot” to her upper right thigh that made her scream in pain and made walking difficult. The girl said her parents told her that what happened was not to be discussed. She said Nagarwala told her she would be fine.
As with the first girl, an exam in Minnesota by a doctor revealed evidence pointing to genital mutilation.
“Other children ... may have been victimized by Nagarwala between 2005 and 2007” in Michigan, the charges read. “Multiple minor girls informed Child Protective Services and ... interviewers that procedures had been performed on their genitals by Nagarwala.” Some parents acknowledged what happened, while others did not.
Female genital mutilation is practiced extensively in some African countries and areas of the Middle East, according to UNICEF. A June 2016 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that increased immigration from countries where it is practiced had brought it to the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in 2012, 513,000 women and girls here were “at risk of or had been subjected” to it.
The report also found that while female genital mutilation was a crime under federal and many state laws, there were few investigations or prosecutions stemming from it — because of underreporting and other problems. The report said the FBI had two investigations from 1997 to 2015, one of which resulted in a prosecution on other charges.
Nagarwala is listed with Henry Ford Health System as an emergency room doctor in Detroit who graduated from Medical School at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1998. Her professional biography online lists that she is fluent in English and Gujarati, a language native to the Indian state of Gujarat.
The Washington Post and Associated Press contributed to this report.