A doctor and his wife accused of carrying out genital cutting on several young girls including two from Minnesota may have carried out the procedure on as many as 100 victims.
The Detroit Free Press reports the revelation was made in a court hearing on Wednesday, as federal prosecutors tried to argue that two people accused of helping Dr. Jumana Nagarwala carry out the procedures should stay in jail as they await trial.
"The Minnesota victims were not the first victims," the court heard, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward saying she believes there may have been as many as 100 genital mutilations carried out over a 12-year period at a clinic owned by Dr. Fahkruddin Attar in Livonia, Michigan.
She also said this was a "conservative estimate" based on an admission by Dr. Attar that Nagarwala – an ER doctor – would use his clinic up to six times a year for this reason. Dr. Attar's wife, Farida, would hold children's hands during the procedure, it's alleged.
According to the Detroit News, the Attars were released from custody ahead of the Oct. 10 trial, but have been placed on house arrest, with the judge barring them from using computers or accessing the internet.
After the hearing, the Attars' attorney Mary Chartier accused prosecutors of continuing to "overstate so many aspects of this case," in reference to the "100 victims" claim.
This is believed to be the first time charges have been brought under the federal law that criminalizes Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release Thursday.
The two Minnesota girls, who were about 7 years old at the time, allegedly underwent the FGM at the clinic back in February.
Nagarwala is part of a cultural community that believes in FGM, the criminal complaint alleged. 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.
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.
For more information on FGM and efforts to end the practice globally, click here.