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U.S. Federal Judge Tosses Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

U.S. Federal Judge Tosses Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

Michigan doctors -- who allegedly cut girls as young as 7 -- call the procedure a benign religious ritual.

A federal judge ruled a U.S. ban on female genital mutilation unconstitutional and dismissed charges leveled against two Michigan doctors accused of cutting the genitals of two seven-year-olds.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled Congress had no authority to bar the intentional mutilation of young girls' genitals against their will, according to a report from the Detroit Free Press.

Prosecutors say Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, assisted by Dr. Fakhuruddin Attar and his wife Farida Attar, cut the labia and clitoris of up to 100 girls in Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota. A federal complaint lists nine specific victims, who ranged in age from 7 to 12 at the time of the procedure.

Victims included two seven-year-olds who say they were tricked into the procedure by their parents. In that case, Nagarwala performed the procedure in a Michigan clinic owned by Fakhuruddin Attar; Farida Attar held the girls' hands through the procedure.

Defense attorneys for the doctors argued the 1990s-era mutilation ban passed Congress with no debate, and was pushed based on one lawmaker's belief the procedure was "repulsive and cruel." This case marked the first time in 22 years anyone challenged the statute in court.

But the procedure has faced wide condemnation worldwide.

The United Nations condemns the practice, often called FGM, and holds an annual International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

"It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls," a United Nations website says of the procedure. "The practice also violates their rights to health, security and physical integrity, their right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and their right to life when the procedure results in death."

And at least 30 nations passed bans on FGM, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.

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