Judge dismisses female genital mutilation charges in historic case

In a major blow to the federal government, a judge in Detroit has declared America’s female genital mutilation law unconstitutional, thereby dismissing the key charges against two Michigan doctors and six others accused of subjecting at least nine minor girls to the cutting procedure in the nation’s first FGM case.

The historic case involves minor girls from Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota, including some who cried, screamed and bled during the procedure and one who was given Valium ground in liquid Tylenol to keep her calm, court records show.

The judge’s ruling also dismissed charges against three mothers, including two Minnesota women whom prosecutors said tricked their 7 -year-old daughters into thinking they were coming to metro Detroit for a girls’ weekend, but instead had their genitals cut at a Livonia clinic as part of a religious procedure.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman concluded that “as despicable as this practice may be,” Congress did not have the authority to pass the 22-year-old federal law that criminalizes female genital mutilation, and that FGM is for the states to regulate. FGM is banned worldwide and has been outlawed in more than 30 countries, though the U.S. statute had never been tested before this case.

“As laudable as the prohibition of a particular type of abuse of girls may be … federalism concerns deprive Congress of the power to enact this statute,” Friedman wrote in his 28-page opinion, noting: “Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit FGM … FGM is a ‘local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with long-standing tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.”

Currently, 27 states have laws that criminalize female genital mutilation, including Michigan, whose FGM law is stiffer than the federal statute, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, compared with five under federal law. Michigan’s FGM law was passed last year in the wake of the historic case and applies to both doctors who conduct the procedure, and parents who transport a child to have it done. The defendants in this case can’t be retroactively charged under the new law.

Gina Balaya, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorneys Office, said the government is reviewing the judge’s opinion and will make a determination whether or not to appeal at some point in the future.

Friedman’s ruling stems from a request by Dr. Jumana Nagarwala and her codefendants to dismiss the genital mutilation charges, claiming the law they are being prosecuted under is unconstitutional.

In a major blow to the federal government, a judge in Detroit has declared America’s female genital mutilation law unconstitutional, thereby dismissing the key charges against two Michigan doctors and six others accused of subjecting at least nine minor girls to the cutting procedure in the nation’s first FGM case.

The historic case involves minor girls from Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota, including some who cried, screamed and bled during the procedure and one who was given Valium ground in liquid Tylenol to keep her calm, court records show.

The judge’s ruling also dismissed charges against three mothers, including two Minnesota women whom prosecutors said tricked their 7 -year-old daughters into thinking they were coming to metro Detroit for a girls’ weekend, but instead had their genitals cut at a Livonia clinic as part of a religious procedure.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman concluded that “as despicable as this practice may be,” Congress did not have the authority to pass the 22-year-old federal law that criminalizes female genital mutilation, and that FGM is for the states to regulate. FGM is banned worldwide and has been outlawed in more than 30 countries, though the U.S. statute had never been tested before this case.

“As laudable as the prohibition of a particular type of abuse of girls may be … federalism concerns deprive Congress of the power to enact this statute,” Friedman wrote in his 28-page opinion, noting: “Congress overstepped its bounds by legislating to prohibit FGM … FGM is a ‘local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with long-standing tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress.”

Judge Bernard Friedman photographed in his office at the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse in Detroit, Michigan on Tuesday Sept. 22, 2015.

Currently, 27 states have laws that criminalize female genital mutilation, including Michigan, whose FGM law is stiffer than the federal statute, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, compared with five under federal law. Michigan’s FGM law was passed last year in the wake of the historic case and applies to both doctors who conduct the procedure, and parents who transport a child to have it done. The defendants in this case can’t be retroactively charged under the new law.

Gina Balaya, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorneys Office, said the government is reviewing the judge’s opinion and will make a determination whether or not to appeal at some point in the future.

Friedman’s ruling stems from a request by Dr. Jumana Nagarwala and her codefendants to dismiss the genital mutilation charges, claiming the law they are being prosecuted under is unconstitutional.

FOLLOW THE LINK FOR THE FULL REPORT – JR

https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2018/11/20/female-genital-mutilation-michigan/1991712002/

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