MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Authorities in Minnesota have filed child protection petitions for two 7-year-old girls who prosecutors say were brought to Michigan by their mothers for a genital mutilation procedure.
The petitions were filed in Hennepin and Anoka counties on Thursday, the same day a Michigan doctor was charged with performing genital mutilation on the two girls. According to the FBI, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was arrested after the 7-year-olds identified her as the person who performed procedures on them in February at a clinic in suburban Detroit.
It is believed to be the first case of its kind prosecuted in federal court.
The petition in Hennepin County said one of the girls was removed from her family’s suburban Minneapolis home and placed in a shelter on a 72-hour health and welfare hold. Her 11-year-old brother remains in the home.
The Associated Press isn’t naming the parents to avoid identifying the girl. They don’t have a listed home phone number, and it wasn’t immediately clear whether they had an attorney. A woman who answered the door said the family had no comment.
According to the petition, child protection services received a report of physical abuse of the girl on Monday and authorities interviewed her. She told them about the trip she took with her mom, a friend and the friend’s parents. The girl said she went to see a doctor, but was told to keep that secret.
The girl was given a medical exam after being removed from the home.
Her father told a child protection investigator that “if they knew what would come of it, this would never have happened,” the petition stated.
A spokeswoman for the Anoka County Attorney’s Office confirmed prosecutors have filed a case there as well, but it’s under seal and the details are confidential.
The FBI said Nagarwala, 44, is a member of a cultural community that believes in the practice but that she denied performing it when interviewed by agents. She is charged with genital mutilation, making false statements and other crimes and remains in custody pending a Monday court hearing.
In a court filing, the FBI said many more girls have told investigators that Nagarwala performed procedures on their genitals. Acting U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco called the procedures “horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims.”
Dr. Mohammed Arsiwala, president and CEO of Michigan Urgent Care and board member of the Michigan State Medical Society, said he knows of Nagarwala and confirmed she is a member of the community. He said he left the community after learning of the practices.
“This is absolutely not needed — there’s no scientific basis at all for it,” said Arsiwala, who said he has shared his concerns through resolutions presented to the state medical group and Wayne County Medical Society, of which he is a former president.
“The most important thing … is to make sure if any girl has undergone this and needs physical or psychological support, it should be offered,” he said, adding that his long-term goal is to work with state lawmakers and make the procedure a criminal offense in Michigan.
Arsiwala declined to comment on the specifics of this case.
Female genital mutilation of minors is illegal in the U.S. unless there’s a legitimate health reason. The World Health Organization said the practice of removing or injuring female genital organs has no known health benefits. Yet it has been performed on more than 200 million women and girls in 30 countries, according to the group.
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