A Michigan doctor who allegedly performed female genital mutilation on at least nine underage girls and as many as 100 saw nearly all charges against her dropped on Tuesday after a Detroit judge ruled that the federal law banning female genital mutilation is unconstitutional. Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was arrested last year after she was accused of performing the brutal procedure on two 7-year-old girls from Minnesota.
In a court ruling on Tuesday, federal judge Bernard Friedman dismissed six of the eight charges against the doctor, the primary defendant in the case, in what marked the first federal case prosecution of the practice of FGM.
“Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit [female genital mutilation],” wrote Friedman in his decision, arguing that “as despicable as [FGM] may be, it is essentially a criminal assault” and therefore outside of the federal government’s jurisdiction to regulate. FGM, the judge continued, was a “local criminal activity” that could only be banned at the state level.
“As laudable as the prohibition of a particular type of abuse of girls may be, it does not logically further the goal of protecting children on a nondiscriminatory basis,” said Friedman.
Nagarwala’s lawyer, Shannon Smith, said that her client was “ecstatic” at the judge’s ruling, but that she was “still nervous” over the two charges she still faces. It is expected that the U.S. government will appeal the decision.
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