Federal prosecutors have filed charges against two mothers in Minnesota who allowed their daughters’ genitalia to be cut during an illegal religious procedure earlier this year. A Michigan-based doctor who performed the operation is also awaiting trial.
The two mothers have been charged with female genital mutilation (FGM) and conspiracy to commit FGM, according to an indictment that was unsealed Thursday. The two women each have seven-year-old daughters, whom they are accused of performing the procedure on, the Detroit News reported.
One woman, a US citizen, was arrested at her home by the FBI on Thursday and was subsequently arraigned in federal court in St. Paul, Minnesota. She was then released on bond and is expected to appear in court on September 21 at the Detroit federal court. She still has custody of her daughter and son, according to Dan Homstad, a defense lawyer representing the two mothers.
The second mother’s legal status and hometown is not known, according to the Detroit News.
The indictment alleges the two mothers planned a nighttime rendezvous at a Livonia, Michigan clinic, owned by Doctor Fakhruddin Attar, who has also been charged in this case.
FGM is practiced by some members of the Dawoodi Bohra, a small sect of Shia Muslims hailing from India.
“This is a very complex case,” Homstad said, according to the Detroit News, “and there are a lot of cultural issues at play that the (Dawoodi Bohra) community up here is struggling with.”
“I represent two very caring and intelligent parents of two wonderful children. This arrest, of course, is very hard on the family,” he added.
If convicted of FGM under US law, the mothers face a possible fine and imprisonment for no more than five years.
“Female genital mutilation constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls. It is also a serious federal felony in the United States. The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law,” Acting US Attorney Daniel Lemish said, the Daily Caller reported.
Ahead of Thursday’s indictment, six people had already been charged in the alleged conspiracy, including doctors Jumana Nagarwala and Attar. Attar’s wife, Farida Attar, along with two other mothers, have also been charged, according to the Daily Caller.
Prosecutors say the two mothers are being charged for bringing their daughters to have the procedure done.
One other woman who was allegedly in the clinic during the alleged mutilation was also charged, the Daily Caller reported.
The lead defendant in that case is Nagarwala, a Detroit doctor, who is accused of performing the procedure on the two seven-year-olds. Nagarwala denies the crime and has been in jail since April when she was arrested in relation to the incident, according to the Detroit News.
Prosecutors allege Nagarwala performed the procedure on the two seven-year-olds while Attar and his wife allowed the mutilation to occur.
Prosecutors also estimate that over 100 girls have been cut during the arrangement that spans 12 years, the Detroit News reported.