Doctor denies genital mutilation of Minnesota girls; judge keeps her locked up

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala is seen in this undated image from the Henry Ford Health System

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala is seen in this undated image from the Henry Ford Health System

A Detroit-area doctor charged with performing genital mutilation on two 7-year-old girls is denying the allegations, saying it was a religious practice for families in a Muslim sect. What about those conclusions, she asked the defense. Dr. Nagarwala belongs to an Indian-Muslim sect called Dawoodi Bohra.

Smith said her client disagreed with those findings, and said that her client was not responsible for any abnormalities that were cited in that report, but rather that the girls may have caused their own problems by scratching.

Recently, the Detroit authorities confirmed that an emergency room physician working at a Detroit hospital has been performing illegal surgical procedures on several underage patients at an unknown clinic from the same city.

Norm Cohen was among the protesters who marched outside federal court.

In a Monday hearing, a judge pronounced Nagarwala a "danger to the community". "The practice has no place in modern society, and those who perform (female genital mutilation) on minors will be held accountable under federal law", stated Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch. The case relies on a federal law that criminalizes FGM and makes punishable by up to five years in prison.

The FBI arrested Dr. Nagarwala for genital mutilation and transportation with criminal intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. An explanation of this practice, beyond the cultural and religious implications, might be gender inequality.

On Tuesday, authorities spoke with Nagarwala, who according to court records, volunteered to be interviewed by a Homeland Security agent and MI child protective services personnel.

The feds were tipped off about the doctor when two girls were brought to metro Detroit by their mothers from Minnesota.

Nagarwala, who received her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, has been licensed as a physician in MI since 2001; state records show no formal complaints or disciplinary action against her.

"We are shocked by the allegations", Henry Ford Health System spokesman David Olejarz said in statement, stressing: "The alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility". Her bio lists the languages she speaks as English and Gujarati, spoken by the Gujaratis, who hail from the western India state of Gujarat.

According to prosecutors, Nagarwala was arrested Thursday while boarding an worldwide flight to Kenya, where she was going to visit a daughter.

The procedure is believed to initiate girls into adulthood and ensure their marriageability, according to Human Rights Watch, a NY nonprofit human rights organization. A doctor who later examined the girl said that her genitals "are not normal in appearance", and that parts of them had been altered or removed, according to the complaint. During the hearing, Nagarwala's attorney said the feds have it all wrong. Both girls were told not to talk about what happened at the clinic by Defendant and their parents. At least one of the girls has been removed from her home by child protection workers in Minnesota. She asked Nagarwala for advice on what she should say.

In Australia past year, the Dawoodi Bohra community was at the center of a landmark female genital mutilation there as three people were each sentenced to 15 months prison for carrying out the procedure on two girls. The affidavit, according to reports, also said that many of her victims were from MI. In countries such as Djibouti, Egypt and Somalia, more than 90% of girls undergo some form of genital mutilation, some during infancy.

Her employer, Henry Ford Health System said Nagarwala has been placed on administrative leave.

For Sree Kamojjala, president of the Indian Association of Minnesota, the case of the MI doctor is both shocking and deplorable, he said, stressing that genital mutilation "is not a Hindu practice" or a condoned practice in India.

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