Friday, April 14, 2017

Female Genital Mutilation in Detroit

Some good news on the legal front. The Trump Justice Department is prosecuting a Detroit physician for acts of female genital mutilation. On seven-year-old girls. Amazingly, this is the first case of its kind. The rule was established in 2012. Guess which administration failed to prosecute any cases under it?

One awaits the op-eds by those who believe that FGM, as it is called, is protected speech… a cultural practice that we do not have any right to judge.

A Detroit emergency room physician was charged Wednesday with mutilating the genitalia of two 7-year-old girls in what is believed to be the first case of its kind brought under federal law.

Jumana Nagarwala of Livonia was charged with female genital mutilation, a five-year felony, and transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, a 10-year felony, according to a complaint unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court.

“According to the complaint, despite her oath to care for her patients, Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse.”

Nagarwala was arrested Wednesday night.


Anonymous said...

It's unconstitutional to make this illegal for girls but not for boys. That's like saying it's OK for someone to punch your boy in the face, but if he punches your girls he goes to jail.

This has nothing to do with whether the practice is good or bad, clean or unclean, religious or medical. It has to do with constitutionality and my guess is that if this goes to the supreme court, it would be ruled legal.

Because if it's not, then you've set a precedent for gender-based discrimination. If it's mutilation without consent, then that goes for everyone, not just females in one specific religion.

Glaivester said...

Alternately, we could just make it illegal to remove anything more than the foreskin.

The problem here is not "female circumcision" per se, but the fact that we are using "circumcision" as a euphemism for "clitorectomy." What is being done to these girls is more equivalent to Lorena Bobbitt than to what a mohel does.

I don't know that I would have a problem with actual "female circumcision," i.e. the removal of the clitoral prepuce, if it were not accompanied by the removal of the clitoris itself and some of the labia.

trigger warning said...

"my guess is that if this goes to the supreme court, it would be ruled legal."

I'll take that bet. And as G notes above, calling it female "circumcision" is a ridiculous misnomer.

Anonymous said...

The point is consent for an elective surgery. You can't on the one hand justify it for males but say it's a no-no for females. Regardless of what the elective operation is. This would be like saying it's OK to cut off a boy's ear but not a girl's.

This is either White Knighting at its worst or a justification of Jewish traditions while trying to make Muslim traditions illegal. None of this will pass muster with the Supreme Court. It's either equal for male and female and equal for religions or it isn't.

trigger warning said...

As noted above... I'll take that bet.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

This doctor should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. And his conviction should be upheld.

This horrific practice has nothing to do with our Constitution's religious free exercise protections. The deciding factors are (a) the intent of the procedure and (b) the irreversible physical impact that is entirely apart from the understanding of what religious belief is.

FGM has nothing to do with the ability to exercise religious belief as traditionally understood in Supreme Court precedents:

FGM is instead a cultural custom that happens to occur today in mostly in Islamic countries. Well, now these Muslims are in America, and the prevailing social customs here are decidedly different. Practices such as the destructive mutilation of human organs are not protected by the Constitution. We're not talking about wearing a hijab or a burkha, though I question whether those demands of "modesty" are Constitutional in and of themselves. Nor are laws prohibiting hijabs productive, either, though we could have a separate conversation about concealment as a matter of the burkha's practicali impact on law enforcement or as a degrading social instrument.

Whether or not your genitals have been mutilated does not impact the fullness of religious belief or practice. Religious expression has physical elements to it through rituals, but it is not itself a physical act. Therefore, reason informs us that one is not able to practice one's religion to a lesser or greater degree based on intact or mutilated genitals.

The intent of FGM as a custom is plainly to limit a woman's sexual desire and coital experience. While female modesty, chastity and purity are universally attractive qualities in all human societies, the means of expression are different culture to culture. Societies fully sanction sexual relations within marriage, but most discourage it (at varying degrees) before marriage. Traditionally, social stigma for violating these rules falls more on the woman. This makes sense, given her disproportionate responsibility of carrying, feeding and raising infants, then nurturing them through a long childhood. Sure, it takes a village, but it starts with birth, and birth comes after sexual intercourse.

So there may be a whole host of cultural structures that may align with feminine concepts of religious purity, and these emanate from the unchosen (but very real) responsibility that sets in upon menarche. Yet these desirable qualities are paltry compared to the real, lasting impact of FGM.

FGM cannot be reversed. The procedure is almost always conducted before the age of consent and has a decidedly negative impact on the fullness of the human person, both the natural sensory experience and her sexual expression in relationship with her partner. FGM enforces modesty and purity by eliminating the possibility of natural feminine sexuality. The roots of the practice are decidedly misogynist.

Male circumsicion is, by contrast, benign. Major medical authorities do not take a stance on it. It is considered an elective procedure. Circumcision has no negative impact on natural male sexuality, coital experience or anatomical function. It either offers no benefit or a modest health benefit, depending on the source. The same cannot be said for FGM. It is medieval, barbaric and dehumanizing, just like most cultural traditions that impact females in fundamentalist Islamic societies. If anything, it's an irreversible, sadistic rite of passage. But that does not mean it has any merit in the context of religious belief or expression.

The First Amendment's free exercise clause has limits, just as they all do. The Supreme Court would/will strike down a free exercise interpretation like this. As well they should.

trigger warning said...

IAC, you're right on every point, but you're arguing with a zealot. Might as well be explaining it to a stone.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Trigger Warning @April 14, 2017 at 10:51 AM:

Oh no, sir... I'm not arguing with the zealot. That's pointless. I'm arguing that Nagarwala doesn't have a valid First Amendment religious free exercise claim. There is simply no prima facie right to butcher someone's genitals on religious grounds. Additionally, the other commenter's boy/girl distinction is not applicable here because the two procedures are entirely different in intent and impact. There is no reasoned justification for FGM. Equality has nothing to do with it because the procedures are not comparable. And there are plenty of males who are circumcised but not Jewish, so it fails the religious bias test. Nagarwala's attorney can file whatever lawsuit he wants, but I doubt a Federal court (much less SCOTUS) would rule that irreversible physical mutilation -- especially pertaining to minors who cannot consent -- is a sacrosanct component of exercising one's religious conscience. It may be something lots of girls have done in Egypt, but this ain't Egypt. If promulgating that judicial opinion would be akin to explaining to a stone, then I hope the federal corrections system will become avid stone collectors.

Anonymous said...

Can't see Ginsburg, Sotamayor and Kagan giving the religious nuts a pass to mutilate female genitalia.

Sam L. said...

I can, Anon. I can.

Anonymous said...

Interesting Ares Olympus doesn't care about doctors mutilating female genitals.