Two Minnesota mothers were charged with female genital mutilation Thursday as part of a growing federal case against the practice.
Federal prosecutors charged Haseena Halfal and Zainab Hariyanawala, who are both mothers to 7-year-old daughters, with conspiracy to commit female genital mutilation and female genital mutilation, reports The Detroit News.
Prosecutors took Halfal into custody, but she will be set free soon, her lawyer told The Detroit News. The two women join a growing group of people as federal prosecutors revealed the first case aimed at prosecuting female genital mutilation in the country.
Six other people have already been charged as part of the Detroit, Mich. female genital mutilation case: Drs. Jumana Nagarwala, Fakhruddin Attar and Farida Attar, along with two other mothers and a woman who allegedly was in the clinic when the procedure occurred.
Prosecutors allege that Nagarwala mutilated the genitalia of two 7-year-old girls, while Attar and his wife allowed Nagarwala to perform the procedure at their clinic. The two other mothers, Farida Arif and Fatema Dahodwal, face charges for allegedly bringing their daughters. While prosecutors believe that approximately 100 girls were victimized, the indictment only refers to two.
“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 United States Attorney Daniel Lemisch said.
A lawyer for one of the doctors has argued that the procedure was a religious practice, and is therefore protected by the First Amendment. She added that the doctor didn’t cut the girls, but nicked them.
“But what we’re saying is this procedure does not qualify as FGM,” lawyer Mary Chartier said. “And even if it did, it would be exempt because it would violate their First Amendment rights. They believe that if they do not engage in this then they are not actively practicing their religion.”
Michigan officials have cracked down on the practice by passing a law with tougher penalties for those who perform the procedure. While the new penalties won’t apply to the current FGM case, those who are found guilty of mutilating the genitalia of those under 18 can face up to 15 years in prison.
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