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A grand jury investigation into female genital mutilation has expanded to three more states — including Illinois — as federal agents identify additional Doctor suspects. The new targets of the investigation reportedly live in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

Female genital mutilation is defined as the intentional injury or alteration to female genitals for reasons that are not medical. The practice can result in serious complications, such as infection, psychological harm, and a greater risk of problems during childbirth.

Until recently, the FBI investigation centered on mutilation of girls in Michigan and Minnesota. The case involves girls as young as 6 years old being taken by their parents to Michigan for so-called treatment.

Federal prosecutors note that up to 100 girls in Michigan alone have been victims of genital mutilation. For the first time, the Department of Justice and the FBI are pursuing indictments related to the crime.

If you are under investigation for female genital mutilation, it’s critical that you establish a relationship with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Michael J. Petro has a long and distinguished history of defending individuals charged with violent crimes. He can assist in ensuring that your rights are protected if you contacted by the FBI, arrested or indicted for these serious charges.

ER Doctor Among Suspects

The FBI’s expansion of their investigation to Chicago and other cities is the latest development in the case, which alleges that six adults were part of a conspiracy to mutilate the genitals of young girls — a practice known as female circumcision. The mutilation was allegedly perpetrated as part of a religious ritual practiced among the Dawoodi Bohra, a small group of Indian Shia Muslims.

Jumana Nagarwala, an emergency room doctor, is one of the primary suspects in the case, allegedly having mutilated girls at a Michigan clinic owned by Dr. Fakhruddin Attar. She was indicted and arrested by the Department of Justice on multiple charges in July for alleged mutilations of victims between 2005 and 2017.

Five additional people so far are listed as defendants in the case. Nagarwala’s lawyer has noted in a court filing that federal officials have identified more targets in the investigation in Chicago and other cities, and she believes more people will face charges in federal court.

Legislators Aim to Triple Penalty

News of the expanded investigation comes as two federal lawmakers have introduced legislation that would significantly increase the punishment for female genital mutilation. The Stopping Abusive Female Exploitation (SAFE) Act, introduced by Reps. Carolyn Maloney of New York and Dave Trott of Michigan, would increase the penalty for the crime from the current five year maximum to a maximum of15 years in prison. In addition, the bill would encourage states to adopt requirements for reporting alleged instances of female genital mutilation, which has been illegal in the United States since the mid-1990s.

Trott stated that the doctors and others who commit such crimes against children should be held accountable and that the new legislation would protect girls and help eradicate the practice of female genital mutilation.

Female Circumcision: Why Is it Done?

The practice of female genital mutilation impacts millions of women around the world. Scholars of Islam say female circumcision is not part of Islamic law, and Muslim activists are working to end the practice. It is believed to have originated before either Christianity or Islam began.  Recently, more women in the United States are now being circumcised because more people have immigrated to the United States from countries that legally practice female circumcision.

Advocacy groups propose a focus on outreach and education in addition to penalties for engaging in female genital mutilation. Educational efforts should include teaching girls about the dangers of the practice, providing additional training for medical personnel, and working to change attitudes.

Chicago’s Best Defense Attorney

If you believe you may be a suspect in this investigation relating to female genital mutilation, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. For a personal consultation, contact Attorney Michael J. Petro in Chicago.