A federal judge in Michigan has thrown out a law protecting girls from genital mutilation, ruling that the law is unconstitutional.
Women’s rights advocates were left stunned after the shock ruling, with some describing the decision as a serious blow to women’s rights. The judge did, however, include in his ruling that the US does have a right to ban the practice but that this must take place at a state level. Currently roughly half of the states have made such a decision.
The ruling, which was delivered on November 20th, came after several charges against a doctor were brought before the court. The doctor was accused of cutting nine girls in three states as part of a religious custom.
Dr Jumana Nagarwala was among eight people charged in federal court in Michigan. She was charged in connection with the genital mutilation of nine girls from Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. It was alleged that the mutilations took place between 2015 and 2017. Authorities also claimed that mothers brought their girls to Nagarwala when they were roughly 7 years old for the procedure.
Nagarwala said no crime was committed and that she had performed a religious custom on girls from her Muslim sect, the India-based Dawoodi Bohra.
In his ruling, US District Judge Bernard Friedman threw out the mutilation and conspiracy charges against all the defendants. He ruled that a 1996 federal law that bans female genital mutilation was unconstitutional. He came to the determination because Congress does not have the power to regulate the behaviour in the first place.
But the judge clearly stated that the power to regulate female genital mutilation lies with state governments. According to AP, Friedman said US states have the primary authority in defining and enforcing criminal law.