Our Reaction to the First Federal FGM Case Dismissal: We Lost a Battle, But Are Resolute in Winning This War

Detroit federal courthouse, where the Nagarwala case was heard.

10-06-2021

United States of America v. Nagarwala, et al (17-20274)

Eastern District of Michigan United States District Court

On September 28th, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman dismissed what remained of the landmark criminal case, U.S. v. Nagarwala. The dismissal was a result of what Friedman called “vindictive or retaliatory prosecution,” as prosecutors had recently pursued new charges in this case. 

As a result of the dismissal, Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin said, “We take our duty to protect children very seriously. Child victims are vulnerable and they deserve our best efforts to hold accountable those who harm them.” 

This final chapter comes nearly three years after Friedman ruled that the federal FGM law was unconstitutional. At that time, Friedman argued that criminalization of FGM should belong with individual states, not at the federal level. As a result, key FGM charges were dismissed against Nagarwala and three other doctors. In response to Friedman’s ruling in 2016, Congress took action and a stronger federal anti-FGM law was passed in 2020.

A portion of the case, however, was left intact until 2020 when the remaining key charges were also dismissed. In early 2021, prosecutors filed a new indictment with allegations of witness tampering, lying to federal agents, and conspiracy; these final charges have now also been dismissed. 

We wish to express deep sadness for the nine girls involved in this case who will never see justice for the human rights abuse committed against them. 

Although prosecution would have sent a strong message to practicing communities that FGM will not be tolerated in the U.S., there is no arguing that this case, the first of its kind, raised awareness of FGM, led to the strengthening of the federal anti-FGM law, and resulted in many new state laws. 

The defendants in this case had some of their victims cross state lines for the purpose of FGM. As our laws currently stand, 10 states and the District of Columbia are still unable to protect girls from this practice and could now similarly become destinations for parents and guardians seeking to cut their girls. Those who wish to engage in this brutal practice could travel to states that lack anti-FGM laws in order to dodge harsh criminal penalties. 

Fortunately, with the federal law now reaffirmed, those who go through with cutting their daughters can be prosecuted. But, welcome as this is, it is not enough. We must continue to push our state legislators to introduce legislation that includes necessary protective measures such as education and outreach, which may help to prevent the practice from taking place at all.

So, although this is the final chapter in U.S. v. Nagarwala, we want AHA supporters to know that we are committed to winning this war, and although we lost this battle, we will not be deterred. There must be zero tolerance for FGM everywhere in the U.S. We remain steadfast in our campaign to pass comprehensive legislation in the remaining 10 states, plus D.C., and urge you all to lend your voices and support our work to do so.

You can get involved by writing to your representatives; please see our letter templates here. Or you can make a donation today. Please act now to help us end this barbaric practice once and for all.  

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