An India-born doctor and his wife were arrested and charged with helping another Indian-origin doctor perform genital mutilations on minor girls, a procedure criminalised in the United States.
Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife Farida Attar, 50, from Michigan state were charged with conspiring with Jumana Nagarwala, 44, to perform female genital mutilations (FGM) out of Fakhruddin’s medical clinic in Livonia.
The Attars were arrested on Friday while Nagarwala was arrested last week and charged with performing the procedure on six- to eight-year olds.
Nagarwala, Fakhruddin and Farida are believed to be the first people charged under federal US law, which criminalises FGM.
According to an online physician directory, Fakhruddin graduated from the Baroda Medical College in Gujarat, India in 1988.
The charges say that Nagarwala used to perform the medical procedure on minor girls at Burhani Medical Clinic (BMC) in Michigan owned and operated by Fakhruddin.
Fakhruddin’s wife was employed at the BMC as an officer manager.
A complaint against the Attars said the couple arranged and assisted in the mutilation, allowing their clinic to be used by Nagarwala.
Fakhruddin told federal agents this month that he had known Nagarwala and she occasionally saw patients at his clinic even though she was not employed there. He said Nagarwala only saw the patients at BMC when the clinic was closed and that Farida used to be present in the examining room while Nagarwala treated the minor girls.
Several minor girls informed forensic personnel that Nagarwala had performed the procedure on their genitals while one minor girl said Farida had been present when Nagarwala did the deed.
According to the complaint, some of the minor victims travelled interstate to have the procedure performed.
The number of girls under 18 at risk for FGM in the US has quadrupled since 1997. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 513,000 women and girls are at risk of FGM in the US. FGM has been a crime under federal law since 1996 and is punishable by up to five years in prison, however it is not a crime in 26 US states, including Michigan.
The complaint filed against Nagarwala last week had said federal agents reviewed her telephone records and further investigation revealed that parents of two minor girls had travelled to Michigan.
The girls were later interviewed by a forensic expert during which one of the girls said she was told she was coming to Detroit for a “special” girls’ trip, but after arriving at the hotel she learned that she and the other girl had to go to the doctor because “our tummies hurt.”
The World Health Organisation said female genital mutilation comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.