Law That Banned Female Genital Mutilation in US Thrown Out As 'Unconstitutional'
Detroit federal judge declared that the US law should not be outlawed
A Detroit federal judge declared that the US law banning female genital mutilation was 'unconstitutional' on Tuesday, before dismissing several charges against two doctors in the first criminal case of its kind.
The judge ruled that Congress did not have enough authority to adopt the 1996 law, and the power to outlaw the practice applied to individual states.
US district judge Bernard Friedman states Congress lacked jurisdiction under the commerce clause to approve the 1996 law, and that the power o outlaw female genital mutilation belonged to individual states.
“As despicable as this practice may be, it is essentially a criminal assault,” Friedman wrote.
“FGM is not part of a larger market, and it has no demonstrated effect on interstate commerce. The commerce clause does not permit Congress to regulate a crime of this nature.”
Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for US attorney Matthew Schneider in Detroit, said that prosecutor’s office would examine the decision before deciding whether to appeal.
According to The Guardian: The decision removed the main charges against Jumana Nagarwala, a doctor who conducted the procedure on nine girls from Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota at another doctor’s clinic in the Detroit suburb of Livonia.
FGM is a custom performed on girls from her Muslim sect, the Dawoodi Bohra.
Four of the eight defendants were dismissed from the case, including three of the four mothers accused of subjecting their daughters to FGM.
The government said one girl, age seven, had informed investigators that she and another girl had been taken to Detroit for what they thought was a “special girls’ trip,” and was told not to discuss the FGM procedure after it was finished.
Molly Blythe, a lawyer for Nagarwala, said in an email:
“We are very excited about today’s ruling, although the victory is bittersweet given we fully anticipated our client to be vindicated at trial on those charges.”
FGM typically means the partial or total removal of the clitoris.
It is a common practice in many northern and central African countries including Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan, but several international treaties forbid it.
Twenty-seven US states also ban the procedure, according to civil rights groups.
Michigan joined the list last year.
The World Health Organization predicts that more than 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM.
Nagarwala pleaded not guilty last month to the two remaining charges she faces.
Those charges are obstructing an official proceeding, and conspiracy to travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.