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FILE - A T-shirt warns against female genital mutilation. Its wearer attends an event, discouraging harmful practices such as FGM, at a girls high school in Imbirikani, Kenya, April 21, 2016.Image source: VOA

Women’s rights advocates said they were shocked when a federal judge in Michigan ruled this week that a law protecting girls from genital mutilation was unconstitutional. They called his decision a serious blow to girls’ rights. Legal experts said the judge made clear that U.S. states have authority to ban the practice, though only about half do.

Here is a look at the ruling, which dismissed several charges against a doctor accused of cutting nine girls in three states as part of a religious custom, and what could happen next.


The ruling, simplified

Dr. Jumana Nagarwala was among eight people charged in federal court in Michigan in connection with the genital mutilation of nine girls from Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois between 2015 and 2017. Authorities alleged that mothers brought their girls to Nagarwala when they were roughly 7 years old for the procedure.


A badge reads “The power of labor against FGM” is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 6, 2018. (VOA)

Nagarwala has denied any crime was committed and said she performed a religious custom on girls from her Muslim sect, the India-based Dawoodi Bohra.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman threw out mutilation and conspiracy charges against all the defendants. He ruled that a 1996 federal law that bans female genital mutilation was unconstitutional because Congress didn’t have the power to regulate the behavior in the first place.

Heidi Kitrosser, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, explained that Congress doesn’t have unlimited authority to legislate and can only make laws that fall within powers explicitly outlined in the Constitution.

In this case, Friedman found that Congress lacked authority to regulate the practice under the Commerce Clause because the procedure is not a commercial activity. He also said Congress’ treaty powers don’t give it authority, because there was no rational relationship between treaty obligations that call for equal rights and a law banning genital mutilation.


Students arrive at the start of a social event advocating against harmful practices such as female genital mutilation at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

But the judge clearly stated that the power to regulate female genital mutilation lies with state governments, which have primary authority in defining and enforcing criminal law.

“The court really could not have been clearer in suggesting this is something that states can do,’’ Kitrosser said.

Human rights fears

The AHA Foundation works to protect women from genital mutilation, honor violence and forced marriages. The group said the ruling was outrageous and set a precedent that cutting girls’ genitals was not a concern at the national level.

While 27 states have laws against female genital mutilation, including Minnesota and Illinois, the 23 states that don’t could become destinations for the procedure, said Amanda Parker, the foundation’s senior director. Michigan lawmakers banned the procedure after Nagarwala’s arrest.

“This is exactly how we got here. The defendants in this case had the victims shipped from Minnesota to Michigan, and the only way of holding them accountable for FGM was the federal statute,” Parker said in a statement. She said the court ruling “sends the message that the authorities are not serious about protecting girls, especially those in immigrant communities, from this form of abuse.”


KAMELI, KENYA – AUGUST 12: A Masaai villager displays the traditional blade used to circumcise young girls August 12, 2007 in Kameli, Kenya. Maasai are a pastoral group mostly clustered in the Rift Valley. They practice circumcision on both boys and girls during puberty years as a rite of passage to adulthood.

Friedman said in his ruling that states without laws specifically banning female genital mutilation can still prosecute the practice under laws that criminalize sexual battery and abuse.

“No state offers refuge to those who harm children,” he wrote.

But those abuse laws often don’t take the specific issues surrounding female genital mutilation into account, said George Zarubin, AHA’s executive director.

“This is such an underground, secretive, barbaric practice,’’ Zarubin said. “I think the judge made a major mistake.”

Is this common?

Genital mutilation, also known as female circumcision or cutting, has been condemned by the United Nations. The World Health Organization says there is no health benefit to the procedure, and it can cause numerous health problems. The practice is common in parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and is generally performed as a way of controlling a girl’s sexuality.


Amran Mahamood used to circumcise young girls in Hargeysa, Somalia, but stopped after a religious leader convinced her the rite was not required by Islamic law. VOA

It’s difficult to gauge how often genital cutting occurs in the U.S. because the practice is largely underground. A 2012 study from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention estimated that more than 513,000 girls in the U.S. had been subjected to or were at risk of undergoing genital cutting.

What’s next?

Federal prosecutors have the option of appealing Friedman’s ruling, but it’s unclear if they will. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not returned messages from The Associated Press this week seeking comment.

Molly Blythe, an attorney for Nagarwala, said Friedman’s decision was warranted under the law and it is “exactly what our justice system is designed to do.”


FILE – A counselor holds up cards used to educate women about female genital mutilation (FGM). VOA

Although the bulk of the case is now dismissed, Nagarwala and three others still face federal obstruction charges, and Nagarwala faces an additional count of conspiracy to travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.

Also Read: Teens Still At Risk But FGM Rates Goes Down in Africa: Research

Blythe said Nagarwala will continue to fight the remaining charges.

If Friedman’s decision stands, the AHA Foundation will work with Congress to try to pass a new federal law to ban the procedure nationwide, Zarubin said. The foundation will also continue work to ban the practice in all 50 states.

“I think a lot of us in the community that are working to try to ban female genital mutilation in this country are beside ourselves” with this decision, he said. (VOA)


Popular

Photo by Pixabay

Upcoming medical colleges in Uttar Pradesh will be named after saints and sages

The new medical colleges being opened in Uttar Pradesh will be named after saints and sages.

The state government has issued an order naming four district hospitals that are being converted into medical colleges.

These district hospitals are in Bijnor, Fatehpur, Chandauli, and Siddharth Nagar.

The Bijnor medical college has been named after Mahatma Vidur, a philosopher during the Mahabharata era and uncle of the Pandavas and Kauravas.

The Chandauli medical college has been named after Baba Keenaram, said to be the founder of the Aghori sect.

The Siddharth Nagar district hospital will be called Madhav Prasad Tripathi Medical College after the BJP politician from the region. Tripathi, popularly known as Madhav Babu, was also the first Uttar Pradesh BJP chief. He was elected MP from Domariyaganj in 1977, besides being two times Jan Sangh MLA and also a member of the UP legislative council.

The Fatehpur hospital has been named Amar Shaheed Jodha Singh Ataiya Thakur Dariyawn Singh Medical College, after the freedom fighter of 1857.

It is said that he was among the first to use Guerrilla warfare against the British, as taught by freedom fighter Tatya Tope.

Meanwhile, according to official sources, the medical college in Deoria will be named after Maharishi Devraha Baba and the medical college of Ghazipur in the name of Maharishi Vishwamitra.

The medical college of Mirzapur will be in the name of Maa Vindhyavasini, the medical college of Pratapgarh in the name of Dr. Sonelal Patel and the medical college of Etah will be named after Veerangana Avantibai Lodhi. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Medical Colleges, Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, India, Politics


Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Indian cricket team on the ground

Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has picked India as the favourite to win the ongoing ICC Men's T20 World Cup in Oman and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Inzamam feels that the Virat Kohli-led India have a greater chance of winning the trophy as the conditions in the Gulf nations are similar to the subcontinent, which makes India the most dangerous side in the event, according to Inzamam.

"In any tournament, it cannot be said for certain that a particular team will win' It's all about how much chance do they have of winning it. In my opinion, India have a greater chance than any other team of winning this tournament, especially in conditions like these. They have experienced T20 players as well," said Inzamam on his YouTube channel.

He said more than the Indian batters, the bowlers have a lot of experience of playing in the conditions. The Indian Premier League (IPL) was played recently in UAE and most of the Indian bowlers did well in that leg.

Inzy heaped praises on the Men in Blue for the confident manner in which they chased the target against Australia on a challenging track without needing Kohli's batting prowess.

"India played their warm-up fixture against Australia rather comfortably. On subcontinent pitches like these, India are the most dangerous T20 side in the world. Even today, if we see the 155 runs they chased down, they did not even need Virat Kohli to do so," he added.

Though he did not pick any favourite, Inzamam termed the India-Pakistan clash in the Super 12 on October 24 as the 'final before the final' and said the team winning it will go into the remaining matches high on morale,

"The match between India and Pakistan in the Super 12s is the final before the final. No match will be hyped as much as this one. Even in the 2017 Champions Trophy, India and Pakistan started and finished the tournament by facing each other, and both the matches felt like finals. The team winning that match will have their morale boosted and will also have 50 percent of pressure released from them," Inzamam added. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, Pakistan, Sports, ICC T20 World Cup, UAE.


Photo by Diana Akhmetianova on Unsplash

Skin problems like itchiness, dryness and flakiness can occur anytime if you're not moisturising your body enough.

Skin problems like itchiness, dryness and flakiness can occur anytime if you're not moisturising your body enough. It is commonly observed that while many people take their skincare routine seriously, a majority of them neglect to moisturise the body. It is important to keep in mind that timing matters a lot when it comes to applying moisturisers. Therefore, knowing the appropriate time to apply body lotion is essential.

Take a look at the ideal times to moisturise your body shared by Kimi Jain, Head of Retail, KIMRICA.

Morning
Moisturising the body in the morning sets your skin up to face countless irritants and environmental factors during the day. The skin is constantly exposed to harsh chemicals and pollutants when you're outside which is why using a protective and soothing moisturiser while going out is necessary. Kimirica's Five Elements Body Lotion comes with natural Aloe Vera extracts that act as a rich source of antioxidants and vitamins that helps protect your skin and provide a deep nourishing effect.

man in white crew neck t-shirt Moisturising the body in the morning sets your skin up to face countless irritants and environmental factors during the day. | Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

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