A federal judge in Detroit has dismissed all charges against a doctor accused of female genital mutilation and ruled that laws against the Muslim practice are unconstitutional.
“U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that congress does not have the authority to make FGM illegal, which it had been classified as illegal under the Necessary and Proper Clause or the Commerce Clause,” according to Fox2.
Dr. Jumana Nagarwala had been awaiting trial since 2017 on six counts of female genital mutilation, for which she was released on a $4.5 million bond. She has now been acquitted on all charges.
According to the report, the statute that barred the practice read “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.”
Nagarwala’s attorney’s argued that she was simply abiding by the customs of her religion, Dawoodi Bohra, an Indian sect of Islam.
The Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution allows Congress to regulate “activity that is commercial or economic in nature and that substantially affects interstate commerce either directly or as part of an interstate market that has such an effect.”
Friedman agreed that the prosecution had not met the burden of proving that the law should be illegal under the Commerce Clause.
The World Health Organization describes female genital mutilation as a “violation of human rights:”
Female genital mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending childbirths. In many settings, health care providers perform FGM due to the erroneous belief that the procedure is safer when medicalized1. WHO strongly urges health professionals not to perform such procedures.
FGM is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.
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