Female Genital Mutilation and United States Law

Female Genital Mutilation and United States Law

Female Genital Mutilation or FGM has been in national news recently due to the Michigan’s second doctor being arrested for conducting this procedure.

On April 21, 2017 Dr. Fakhruddin Attar, 53, and his wife Farida Attar, 50, of Livonia, Michigan were both charged with conspiring to perform female genital mutilations (also called female circumcision) on minor girls from Dr. Attar’s medical clinic in Livonia.

On May 3, 2017, U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford ordered the Attars jailed without bond pending trial. According to the Detroit News, the couple’s trial is tentatively set for June 27.

The doctors face up to life in prison if convicted of conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

Prior to that, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, also of Livonia, has been indicted and is in jail after accusations of performing circumcision surgeries on minor girls. The Burhani Medical Clinic, where Dr. Nagarwala worked, is owned and operated by Dr. Attar.

These cases are attracting so much national attention because these doctors are believed to be the first to be charged with violating the U.S. genital mutilation law.

U.S. Female Genital Mutilation Law

The U.S. law for female genital mutilation states:

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b), whoever knowingly circumcises, excises, or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

(b) A surgical operation is not a violation of this section if the operation is—

(1) necessary to the health of the person on whom it is performed, and is performed by a person licensed in the place of its performance as a medical practitioner; or

(2) performed on a person in labor or who has just given birth and is performed for medical purposes connected with that labor or birth by a person licensed in the place it is performed as a medical practitioner, midwife, or person in training to become such a practitioner or midwife.

(c) In applying subsection (b)(1), no account shall be taken of the effect on the person on whom the operation is to be performed of any belief on the part of that person, or any other person, that the operation is required as a matter of custom or ritual.

(d) Whoever knowingly transports from the United States and its territories a person in foreign commerce for the purpose of conduct with regard to that person that would be a violation of subsection (a) if the conduct occurred within the United States, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both.

(Added Pub. L. 104–208, div. C, title VI, § 645(b)(1), Sept. 30, 1996, 110 Stat. 3009–709; amended Pub. L. 112–239, div. A, title X, § 1088, Jan. 2, 2013, 126 Stat. 1970.)

The Penalty

According to this law, not only those who perform this operation but also those who transport or conduct anyone in order to perform a female circumcision could be facing up to five years in jail and a fine.

Cultural Practice

What U.S. law calls genital mutilation is thought to be, by specific sects of Islamic cultures from countries in Africa and Asia a prevention of promiscuity. The theory held by those that practice Female Genital Mutilation is that reduction of sexual stimulation in women reduces sex drive. For cultures that highly value religious and familial order, faithfulness in marriage and chastity outside of marriage is a number one priority.

Take Away

The message is that we as a nation value an individual’s freedom to be sexually active over one culture’s ability to carry out restraint of individual sexual freedom.