FARMINGTON HILLS (WWJ/AP) – A lawyer says Michigan’s child welfare agency is moving to terminate parental rights in at least two Detroit-area families in an investigation of female genital mutilation.
Margaret Raben said Saturday that the parents have been told to report to Oakland County court in a few days. She hasn’t seen any formal documents.
The children haven’t been removed from their homes.
The Department of Health and Human Services won’t comment.
Raben says the children are “beautiful, loved and cared for.” The families belong to a Muslim sect called Dawoodi Bohra. Three members have been charged in federal court with genital mutilation involving two Minnesota girls. They’ve pleaded not guilty.
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala is charged with female genital mutilation, conspiracy and other crimes. Prosecutors say Nagarwala performed the illegal procedure on two 7-year-old girls at a Livonia clinic in February and that the girls were brought to Michigan by their mothers. Clinic manager Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and Attar’s wife, Farida, who are members of the same Muslim religious sect, have also been charged. Nagarwala’s attorney has said she was merely performing a harmless religious ritual.
Some cultures believe altering genitals is a proper way to control a girl’s sexuality. It’s a federal crime in the U.S.
The procedure, also known as female circumcision, has roots in various cultures in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It’s generally performed as a way of controlling a girl’s sexuality, maintaining her purity or even making her more fertile as she grows into adulthood. But health and welfare organizations in the United States say it’s a barbaric practice that offers no health benefits but instead can cause great pain and complications for women and render them unable to enjoy sex.
It’s difficult to gauge how often genital cutting occurs in the United States. A 2012 study from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 513,000 girls in the United States had been subjected to or were at risk of undergoing genital cutting. Nagarwala is believed to be the first person to be charged with violating the U.S. government’s ban.
Meantime, investigators are concerned that there could be more victims. The FBI’s Detroit Field Division has set up a tip line for anyone who has information pertaining to the illegal practice of female genital mutilation, involving these three defendants or otherwise, at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5984). Tips can also be submitted online at FBI.gov/FGM.
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