Judge Strikes Down Female Genital Mutilation Law

November 21, 2018

A judge struck down a 1996 federal law banning female genital mutilation, saying that it was incompatible with the Constitution.

The Michigan case at hand involved Dr. Jumana Nargawala who allegedly performed female genital mutilation on nine girls, who were reportedly in the age range of 7-12 years old. Nagarawala is also alleged to have “tricked” two of the girls into the procedure, as one of the girls was allegedly told that the procedure was to clean out bacteria and afterward a medical examination found damage to her genitals.

Nargawala has denied the allegations, stating that she performed a benign procedure on the girls.

The judge, Bernard Friedman, argued that the federal government didn’t have jurisdiction over the matter because female genital mutilation doesn’t constitute interstate commerce.

“As despicable as this practice may be, it is essentially a criminal assault,” Friedman wrote. “FGM is not part of a larger market and it has no demonstrated effect on interstate commerce. The commerce clause does not permit Congress to regulate a crime of this nature.”

Consequently, the six charges under the FGM law against Nargawala were dropped, as were charges against Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, who allegedly allowed Nargawala to use his facility for FGM, and his wife Farida Attar, of providing aid to Nargawala.

Molly Blythe, an attorney for Nargawala, told National Public Radio (NPR): “The law warranted this decision, and we are happy with it.”

Nargawala and the Attars still face charges of conspiracy and obstruction. The federal government is looking into appealing the ruling.

The ruling has sparked outrage. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a survivor of FGM, tweeted:

The Washington Examiner’s Tiana Lowe called the ruling “a bending of the law to protect and normalize systemic violence against women.”

“Even the most limited, contemporary reading of the Commerce Clause would allow Congress to protect minors from being forcibly shoved across state lines to undergo medically detrimental torture. (One of the victims was drugged with Valium to make her compliant.),” Lowe wrote.

Jaha Dukureh, who like Ali is a survivor of FGM, told NPR, “Some women have partial or total removal of the clitoris [a small, highly sensitive part of the genitalia]; some have the folds of flesh around the vagina removed; some have both those areas removed; some have the vaginal opening narrowed, often by stitching, and some women have some form of piercing, scraping, cauterizing to genitalia.”

Dukureh added that there are no health benefits to FGM and it’s generally done as a religious procedure to control women’s sexual impulses.

There are 27 states that currently have laws banning FGM, including Michigan.

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