She had just turned seven years old. She was driven to a doctor’s office that was closed for the day and forcibly held down as a family physician performed female genital mutilation on her.
This is not an isolated incident; federal prosecutors estimate more than 100 underage American girls endured this forcible procedure in Michigan. For the first time in US history, the Department of Justice is prosecuting doctors for performing female genital mutilation.
Female Genital Mutilation is gruesome; haunts women for life
The United Nations has declared that female genital mutilation (FGM) to be so heinous that it should be considered a violation of fundamental human rights. Nonetheless, the barbaric practice still harms 100-140 million women and girls worldwide.
Listen to how a Muslim female doctor describes the danger and pain FGM inflicts on innocent girls:
These girls can never be made whole again. At age 7, years away from their own sexual knowledge, denied an intact clitoris, they will never experience sexual gratification as consenting women. Yes, they may be able to have babies, but their pregnancies, labor, and deliveries will be high-risk because of the profound anatomic destruction to the birth canal. And this is not even accounting for the incredible psychological injury they will come to experience.
In the United States, the law is clear: FGM is illegal in America. The punishment is harsh, and these penalties are well known to communities that may engage in barbaric FGM practices. The ban is not a secret.
As such, federal prosecutors take a zero-tolerance policy:
This brutal practice is conducted on girls for one reason, to control them as women. FGM will not be tolerated in the United States.
The fear, however, is the extent of the problem in Michigan and whether it will spread.
The explosive FGM indictment is rocking Michigan
The FGM charges are the first of their kind in the United States. In Michigan, investigators uncovered a physician’s FGM practice, which focused on a Muslim community — particularly the Dawoodi Bohra Islamic sect.
The clinic centered in this Dawoodi Bohra community likely performed over 100 FGM procedures on girls as young as six years old. The Department of Justice charged three individuals, including a physician, of multiple counts involving FGM, including:
- Conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation.
- Multiple counts of performing FGM against two minor girls.
- Conspiracy to transport minor girls with the intent to engage in Criminal Sexual Activity.
- Conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.
- Multiple counts of giving false statements to a federal officer.
Prosecutors allege the defendants set up secret after-office hours. They used those hours to conduct gruesome FGM on underage girls.
FGM clinics smuggle, threaten, intimidate, and abuse helpless children
The doctor received help from his spouse and staff, who forcibly held children down to perform the procedures. They regularly set up secret meetings with parents and other leaders in the community, conspiring to perform FGM. They would even help transport the children for the procedure.
Finally, hard evidence suggests the defendants responded to allegations by lying to federal investigators and hiding evidence. They threatened the young girls personally, ordering them to never describe the pain they endured:
According to the petition, one of the girls told a child protection investigator that she and her friend “got cake after” the procedure “because the doctor said they were doing good.” The girl also told the investigator that “the doctor made her cry,” the petition states.
The physician claims he didn’t perform FGM, but only “scraped” the genital areas on the girls. A child forensic investigator spoke with and examined the girls and found the doctor had performed far more damaging procedures.
The defendants spend their time hiding their tracks and tampering with evidence. They aren’t even claiming innocence in the case by denying their atrocious acts — instead arguing that they have the legal right to perform FGM on young girls.
Is genital mutilation a form of religious liberty?
The defendants’ primary argument claims that they’re legally entitled to perform FGM procedures as an exercise of their religious rights. They assert that right under constitutional language known as the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.
In some cases, the Supreme Court has held that parents have parental rights to raise children according to their own religious views. The Amish, for example, can’t be forced to send their kids to public schools.
However, committing a barbaric act like FGM is well beyond the scope of any case the Supreme Court has ever heard regarding the Free Exercise clause. FGM is an uncommonly cruel act that physically injures women for the rest of their lives. There is no precedent for upholding such a standard.
The government has a compelling interest to ensure that FGM is not allowed. We have laws preventing child abuse of all kinds and FGM fits that description.
FGM involves a loss of power and autonomy for the vulnerable underage girls. The state should be empowered to protect them from this heinous act.
No more seven-year-old girls should have to suffer from FGM.
Here at Conservative Institute, we continue to push back against these erosions of basic western values. Our principles promote tolerance and vibrant religious liberty, but do not include the toleration of physical attacks on women, children, and the vulnerable in the name of any religion.