A US court has charged a Michigan doctor for performing genital mutilation on young girls. The case is believed to be the first of its kind in the country.
A federal court in Detroit on Wednesday (12 April) charged 44-year-old Jumana Nagarwala with female genital mutilation (FGM) and lying to a federal officer.
Prosecutors have alleged that Nagarwala, an emergency room physician in the city of Detroit, had been performing the procedure for the last 12 years. Some of the victims who underwent FGM were as young as six, the BBC reported.
The Indian-origin doctor had denied any wrongdoing during an interrogation by the federal investigators earlier this week. Prosecutors said she had performed "horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims".
US made female genital mutilation illegal in 1996. If found guilty, Nagarwala could face a life imprisonment.
The doctor has been arrested, and was scheduled to appear in federal court in Detroit on Thursday afternoon.
"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," acting US attorney Daniel Lemisch said. "The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law."
According to the court filing, Nagarwala was probed after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Department of Homeland Security's investigations division (HSI) received a tip-off.
During the investigation, it was found that two seven-year-old girls from Minnesota had travelled to the doctor's place with their parents in February for FGM. The officials had also questioned the girls, and one of them said Nagarwala had "pinched" her genitals and gave a pad to place in her underwear.
They also identified Nagarwala from a photograph as the doctor they had visited, the Guardian reported.
According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2012, over 500,000 women and girls in US were either at risk of or had been subjected to FGM.
Around the world, millions of women and girls are at risk of FGM. It is estimated that around 15 million additional girls between ages 15-19 are likely to be subjected to the procedure by 2030.