Indian Doctor For Performing Genital Mutilation, Denies Charges
- Author: Lila Blake Apr 19, 2017,
Apr 19, 2017, 1:22
What about those conclusions, she asked the defense.
Nagarwala, an emergency room doctor at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and a U.S. citizen, appeared in U.S. District Court in Detroit on Thursday handcuffed and shackled, wearing a white headscarf, glasses and long white dress with colorful embroidery near her shackled feet.
Nagarwala, who is a US citizen of Indian descent born in Washington, D.C., was said by her lawyer to be a part of a mosque outside Detroit connected to the Dawoodi Bohra Islamic sect. It has no benefits and can cause severe short- and long-term health problems.
Prosecutors alleged that Nagarwala carried out the procedure on multiple Muslim girls over the past 12 years. Now living in Atlanta, she says that while US laws prohibiting FGM are robust, the federal government has been slow to provide funding for research and education to raise awareness of the practice.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward said during the detention hearing that Nagarwala performed the procedure after hours and didn't keep patient or billing records.
"She knew that this was illegal but did it anyway", Woodward said, stressing: "As a medical doctor, she is aware that female genital mutilation has no medical goal".
"Nagarwala's removal of clitoral skin from seven-year-old minor females is a sexual activity that violates both state and federal law", noted FBI special agent Kevin Swanson in the criminal complaint.
Nagarwala was also charged with transportation of an individual with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and lying to a federal agent.
Some consider FGM as a religious and cultural practice.
Nagarwala's trial starts April 27.
According to prosecutors, Nagarwala was arrested Thursday while boarding an worldwide flight to Kenya, where she was going to visit a daughter. Her bio lists the languages she speaks as English and Gujarati, spoken by the Gujaratis, who hail from the western India state of Gujarat. She was arrested on Thursday at Detroit Metropolitan Airport while trying to catch a flight to Nairobi, Kenya.
One of the girls told investigators they were brought to Detroit for a special "girls" trip.
According to a medical doctor who later examined her, the girl's "genitals are not normal" due to either adjustment or removal and showed "scar tissue" as well as "small healing lacerations". Hotel and surveillance records backed up this allegation, placing the girls and their mothers at a hotel in Farmington Hills that same day, and then at the Livonia clinic, prosecutors said.
According to Woodward, authorities interviewed the owner of the Livonia clinic, who said that Nagarwala often used the clinic on Friday and Saturday nights - after it was closed - to treat children for genital rashes.
Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security, who worked together on the case, said they have identified multiple other incidents where young girls have been victims of FGM allegedly performed by Nagarwala between 2005 and 2007, according to the criminal complaint.
Authorities in Minnesota have filed child protection petitions for the girls, one of whom was removed from her family last week. Some travelled to her practice from outside the state of MI and were told not to talk about the procedure, they added. She asked Nagarwala for advice on what she should say.
Her employer, Henry Ford Health System said Nagarwala has been placed on administrative leave. "We need to take this into our schools and educate people that this is a practice that is affecting young girls in our country".
"Many of these girls were experiencing physical complications such as urinary tract infections, difficulty passing urine, difficulty with menstruation, but a lot of them were also suffering from psychological consequences of having had the procedure", Elliott said.