A doctor and his wife have now been charged in what authorities say was a concerted effort to arrange and perform female genital mutilation on young girls.
Fakhruddin Attar, M.D., and his wife Farida Attar, were both charged with conspiring to perform the procedure on victims who were 6-8 years old, the Department of Justice announced Friday, including two from Minnesota. The suspects live in Livonia, Michigan, where Fakhruddin Attar has a clinic.
According to the charges, the Attars worked with Jumana Nagarwala – an ER doctor from Northville, Michigan, who last week was also arrested and charged.
The Attars would arrange for the mutilation to be done, and would allow Nagarwala to use their clinic to do so, the charges say, and Farida Attar would also assist. The three are part of a religious and cultural community that practices female genital mutilation based on beliefs, according to the charges.
Two of the girls brought there were from Minnesota, according to the charges, and had the procedures done in February. Doctors in Minnesota found abnormalities or damage to the girls' clitoral hood and labia minora.
There are other possible victims, including from Michigan, with the charges stating it's possibly been going on since 2005.
Fakhruddin Attar's attorney told reporters Friday he isn't aware of any of these crimes happening, the Detroit Free Press reports. Nagarwala's defense lawyer also has denied any wrongdoing, the Free Press reported earlier. All three suspects are part of the Muslim Dawoodi Bohra religious community, the paper says.
One of the Minnesota victims has been returned to her family, but with conditions, the Associated Press reported.
This case is believed to be the first time charges have been brought under the federal law that criminalizes female genital mutilation, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release.
Anyone who was information on female genital mutilation being practiced in the U.S., specifically involving this case or otherwise, can fall the FBI at 1-800-225-5984 (CALL-FBI), or submit a tip online.
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 – 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 subjected to female genital mutilation. 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 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 nationwide.