The Michigan-based female genital mutilation case that rocked the nation over the last two years came to a surprising an rather controversial end recently, when a federal judge dismissed the charges on the grounds that they aren’t constitutional. Come again? What was that, you wonder? How on earth can cutting the genitals of little girls in the name of religion be acceptable to the federal government of the United States?
Okay, hold your horses. We definitely need to clear up a few misconceptions here, because while we understand that this looks bad (it really does!), the truth is – there is more to this situation than meets the eye at first glance. So let’s take a look at why this happened, and what it means for FGM cases in the future.
Exactly what charges were dismissed?
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman dismissed charges of FGM and conspiracy against two Michigan doctors who were accused of performing genital cutting procedures on at least nine minor girls in a Detroit clinic. The doctors in question are Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, who is the physician accused of performing the FGM procedures, and Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, who is accused of facilitating the process by allowing Nagarwala perform the procedures in his clinic. The Judge also dismissed charges against four Michigan mothers who were accused of transporting their daughters across state lines to be cut, and another two mothers for allegedly assisting in the procedures.
Why were these charges dismissed? What made them unconstitutional?
In his 28 page decision, Judge Friedman explained his controversial decision to throw out these charges for being unconstitutional. As despicable as this practice may be, he said, Congress had overstepped its bounds in 1996 by making FGM illegal, so any charges based on that first faulty decision shouldn’t stand. FGM, he went on to say, is a “’local criminal activity’ that, in keeping with long-standing tradition in the United States, should be regulated and punished by the states themselves, not Congress.
So what does this mean for future FGM cases in the U.S.?
Well, for future FGM cases here in the U.S. if prosecutors hope to bring charges that stick, they’ll need to use state laws to prosecute alleged offenders. Currently there are only 27 out of 50 states where FGM is illegal. That may change in the near future, however, as more states scramble to put laws on the books and avoid being viewed as a “haven” for the practice of FGM.
And what does it mean for Drs Nagarwala and Attar?
It means that they will not be prosecuted for the crime of female genital cutting on minors. This is because, while the federal case started in April of 2017, the law in Michigan banning FGM wasn’t passed until later, and defendants can’t be retroactively charged for crimes under new laws.
This case has been highly emotionally charged
FGM is a very controversial subject, and this case in particular has drawn battle lines all over the country. People are either hugely in support of this ruling because it protects citizens from government overreach, or furious because it risks countless young girls at risk. Either way, the topic is causing furious debates and pitting people against one another. We’ll keep watching to see what happens next, and be sure to share the highlights with out readers.