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Charges: ER doctor performed female genital mutilation on young MN girls

The FBI is asking anyone who has information about the illegal practice of FGM to contact them.

An emergency room doctor in Michigan is being accused of performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on girls, including some who traveled from Minnesota.

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, of Northville, Michigan, was charged with performing FGM on girls who were about 7 years old at a medical clinic in Livonia, Michigan, back in February.

This is believed to be the first time charges have been brought under the federal law that criminalizes FGM, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release Thursday.

"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 Blanco said in a statement. "The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse."

According to the criminal complaint:

Nagarwala is part of a cultural community that believes in FGM. The procedure, which can involve cutting and removing all or part of the clitoral skin, is often used to suppress female sexuality in an attempt to reduce sexual pleasure and promiscuity.

Investigators received information that Nagarwala was performing these cutting procedures. Earlier this year, investigators identified two Minnesota mothers who brought their 7-year-old daughters to Michigan in February for the procedure.

One of the girls told investigators they went on a "special girls trip" to Michigan, and while they were there they went to the doctor because their "tummies hurt." The doctor performed a procedure to "get the germs out." She was told not to talk about the procedure.

The girl identified a photo of Nagarwala as the doctor who performed the procedure.

Investigators also identified children in Michigan who had the procedure.

Nagarwala said she's never performed FGM on anyone and knows it is illegal.

The FBI is asking anyone who has information about the illegal practice of FGM or Nagarwala to call the FBI's tip line at 1-800-225-5984 or file one online here.

Female genital mutilation

The World Health Organization says genital mutilation and cutting, which has no known health benefits, is a violation of human rights of girls and women, noting more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut.

The practice is most common in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but it also happens in the United States.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in 2012 said 513,000 women and girls in the U.S. were at risk of FGM – that's more than three times higher than an estimate based on 1990 data.

And of those in America, girls and women in Minnesota are some of the most at risk of being subject to FGM. A 2016 report by the Population Reference Bureau says 44,293 girls and women in the state are potentially at risk – the third highest of all states – including 37,417 girls and women in the Twin Cities alone.

The bureau says Minnesota has a "disproportionate" number of people at risk of FGM because of the state's large Somali immigrant population. And the CDC notes the "rapid growth" in the number of immigrants from countries that practice genital mutilation and cutting coming to the U.S. has led to the increase in the number of girls and women who are at risk of FGM nationwide.

“The FBI, along with its law enforcement partners, are committed to doing whatever necessary to bring an end to this barbaric practice and to ensure no additional children fall victim to this procedure," Special Agent in Charge David Gelios said in a statement.

For more information on FGM and efforts to end the practice globally, click here.

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