Jumana Nagarwala, 44, wore a lavender headscarf and robes that covered almost all of her body at her hearing in the Eastern District of Michigan. The petite doctor spoke so quietly that U.S. District Judge Anthony Patti instructed her to speak up while answering his questions.
According to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday, Nagarwala mutilated the genitals of girls who were sometimes brought by their parents from out-of-state specifically for the procedure.
“Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco at the hearing. “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.”
In an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, FBI agent Kevin Swanson detailed the phone and travel records of Nagarwala’s patients that linked her to her victims. In one of several child forensic interviews detailed by Swanson, one victim was told she was taken to the doctor to “get the germs out.” The victim said she took off her pants and underwear and Nagarwala “pinched” her on the “place (where) she goes pee.”
She was given a pad to wear in her underwear and told not to speak of the procedure with anyone.
A physical performed under the order of a search warrant revealed that the girl’s labia minora – flaps of skin outside the vaginal opening – had been removed.
Another child said she “got a shot” from Dr. Nagarwala and that it hurt so badly she screamed. In spite of pain down to her ankle that made it hard to walk, Nagarwala told her she was fine. She was also instructed to keep the procedure a secret. The girl mistakenly left a glove with her name on it at Nagarwala’s office, which was used as evidence of her visit.
Prosecutors also charged Nagarwala with making false statements to a federal officer when an agent and child protective services workers interviewed her after several investigations. The doctor told the agents she knew female genital mutilation was illegal in the United States. She also said she never performed the procedure and knew of no other doctors who did.
Many cultures that practice female genital mutilation do so because they believe it “preserves” a girl’s virginity or makes her more likely to be faithful in marriage, according to the World Health Organization. The procedure has no health benefits, and WHO issued a joint statement against the practice in 1997. It is now illegal in 30 countries, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Nagarwala is due for a detention hearing on Monday. Prosecutors for the Department of Justice will seek a no-bond request.