As more details emerge about the first-ever charges of female genital mutilation in the United States, the case is opening a window onto a small immigrant community, while stirring impassioned discussion about genital cutting among women who have experienced it.
At a hearing in Michigan this past week, a federal prosecutor said the defendants — two doctors and a clinic manager from a small Shiite Muslim sect — were believed to have arranged cutting for up to 100 girls since 2005. The prosecutor, Sara Woodward, said investigators had so far identified eight girls.
The unprecedented charges provide an unusual case study of a practice outlawed in the United States two decades ago but still seen in parts of Africa, the Middle East and, less frequently, South Asia. The focus on the Dawoodi Bohra, a sect of about 1.2 million based in western India, with clusters in the United States, Pakistan and elsewhere, is spurring Bohra women to describe their experiences publicly. Some are doing so for the first time, defying the sect's historic secrecy about cutting and taking a risk that they or relatives will be ostracized.