DETROIT (WWJ) – New charges Thursday connected to an investigation into female genital mutilation (FGM) in Michigan.
Federal Prosecutors have indicted two women from Minnesota, accused of bringing their two 7-year-old daughters to Michigan to have the procedure in which genitalia were cut.
[INDICTMENT — CAUTION GRAPHIC LANGUAGE AND DESCRIPTIONS]
The woman charged, Haseena Halfal, 34, and Zainab Hariyanawala, 31, both of Minnesota, comes months after six other people, including several metro Detroit doctors, were charged in connection with cutting the prepubescent girls at the Burhani Medical Clinic in Livonia (owned and operated by internal medicine physician Fakhruddin Attar).
Some followers of the Dawoodi Bohra, a small sect of Shia Muslims from India, deem this a part of their religious practice.
In April, a grand jury indicted three people — doctors Jumana Nagarwala and Fakhruddin Attar — along with Attar’s wife, Farida Attar — are charged with female genital mutilation as well as conspiracy to obstruct the federal investigation and to transport minors across state lines.
A fourth person, Tajera Shafiq was arraigned in June, on charges of conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation, and aiding in the practice. She was released on bond and placed under house arrest with an electronic tether.
Federal documents say Shafiq attended the cutting of two Minnesota girls in February at a Detroit-area clinic, which authorities allege was performed by Dr. Jumana Nagarwala.
Also named in the indictment filed Sept. 13 in Detroit Federal Court are Farida Arif and Fatema Dahodwala, both of Oakland County.
One alleged victim told an FBI agent she was bought by her parents to Detroit with another child for what she was told was a “special girls trip.” Once she arrived, she was taken to the clinic for the procedure, and was told not to tell anyone about it.
This is believed to be the first case brought under a federal law which criminalizes FGM — which typically involves the cutting of a girl’s genitals, often for cultural or religious reasons.
Prosecutors believe the six victims noted in the indictment are a relatively small number of overall victims — which they think is closer to 100 young girls, over the course of a dozen years.
“This brutal practice is conducted on girls for one reason, to control them as women. FGM will not be tolerated in the United States. The federal government is continuing this investigation to ensure those responsible are brought to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch.
More than 100 million women and girls are believed to be living with the consequences of female genital mutilation, according to the World Health Organisation. WHO calls the practice, which is common in parts of Africa and the Middle East, “an international recognized violation of human rights of girls and women” that has no known health benefits.