My goal is to maintain a sense of objectivity when I write but there are times when objectivity should be thrown out the window and there can be no justification for what I am about to write.
Last week, a Detroit emergency room physician was charged with mutilating the genitalia of two 7-year-old girls in what is believed to be the first case of its kind brought under U.S. federal law. According to Justice.Gov, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was charged with female genital mutilation, also known as FGM. This is a felony punishable by 10 years to life.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said, “According to the complaint, Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims.” He further added, “The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse.”
Both victims were brought to Nagarwala separately by their parents and told police they were instructed by her not to tell anyone about the procedure after it had taken place.
According to the complaint, Nagarwala may have performed the procedure on "several" other young girls for years, although she is only officially charged in this particular case. Nagarwala’s lawyer told Newsweek that the doctor performed a religious procedure on the children and said that Nagarwala “removed parts of the girls' vaginal membranes and gave it the girls' parents” so they could bury it following a custom practiced by a small sect of Indian Muslims known as the Dawoodi Bohra. However, the United Nations Population Fund states there is no religion that promotes FGM.
What is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
It’s another form of brutal violence against women. That’s what it is. Let’s not sugarcoat it.
FGM is a barbaric procedure where the female genitals are deliberately cut, battered, or changed permanently. The procedure itself involves cutting all or part of the clitoris and sewing together the two labia menora of the vagina, allowing just a small opening for urination. Before she is married, another surgery is performed to reopen her sewn-shut labia. In essence, it stops her from having sex before marriage and probably stops her from enjoying sex after marriage.
This is all for ritual. This is no medical reason to do this. It is usually carried out on young girls between infancy and the age of 15, most commonly before puberty starts. It's painful and can seriously harm the physical and mental health of women and girls. It is also associated with long-term problems with sex and childbirth.
While often mistakenly associated strictly with Islam, the practice is also performed by Christians and Muslims alike and is primarily performed in countries across east, central and west Africa, but also exists in Yemen and Indonesia. It’s believed to be prevalent in parts of India and Russia as well.
Increasing Numbers in the US
If you’re thinking this is a problem the rest of the world faces, think again. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are half a million women and girls at risk of being forced to undergo FGM. Since the last official estimate in 1990, the number of females affected by this practice has grown to 513,000 – nearly tripling over the past 25 years.
The practice has no place in modern society – not in the U.S., not anywhere!
Nagarwala’s case is the first to be brought in the U.S. under a federal law criminalizing the practice. Under the 1996 law, it is illegal to both perform the practice in the U.S. and to transport a girl out of the U.S. to undergo the procedure. However, only 24 U.S. states have additional laws against FGM.
Call To Action
How can a society see so much technological advancement in recent years but see such a decline in keeping our girls safe? How much longer will we allow cruel customs to dictate how we view women in society? It baffles my mind that parents of young girls would continue to contemplate, much less send their daughters off to a place that performs this traumatizing practice.
Changing deep-seated cultural customs, norms, and behaviors isn’t easy but we cannot continue to accept a practice that sustains a belief that women are socially inferiority.
Will you speak up? Will you contact your congresswomen and congressmen to put laws on the book in all U.S. states?
Spread the message and the call to action.
To learn more about FGM, please visit this site: http://www.equalitynow.org/issues/end-female-genital-mutilation
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