Detroit Federal Judge Declares America’s Female Genital Mutilation Law Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Detroit ruled America’s female genital mutilation law as unconstitutional on Tuesday, thus, dismissing charges against two Michigan doctors and six others, according to the Detroit Free Press. U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman determined that Congress didn’t have the right to criminalize the practice on a national level and argued that it had “overstepped.” 

“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 the decision, according to the Detroit Free Press. “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.”

Six out of the eight charges against two Michigan doctors and six others were dismissed; they were accused of performing female genital mutilation to at least nine underaged girls. The cases main defendant, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, will still face charges of “conspiring to travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, as well as one charge for conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding,” CNN reports.  

This is America’s first federal case involving the 22-year-old law. It's performed for a multitude of sociological, cultural, religious, hygienic and socioeconomic reasons. The procedure is banned in about 44 countries including the U.S. Multiple international organizations have also condemned the practice of female genital mutilation, viewing it as a violation of human rights. In 2012, the United Nations officially banned and criminalized the practice. 

The defendants are part of an Indian Muslim sect known as the Dawoodi Bohra, the Detroit Free Press reports. The sect believes female circumcision is a religious rite of passage that only involves a small “nick.” All nine girls experienced FGM at their clinic in Detroit. 

“Unfortunately, this is going to embolden those who believe that this must be continued...they’ll feel that this is permission, that it’s OK to do this,” said FGM survivor and activist Mariya Taher to the Detroit Free Press

The federal government are currently reviewing the judge’s decision, and will decide whether or not to appeal the ruling.