A U.S. district judge in Michigan has ruled against a federal ban on female genital mutilation, arguing that Congress overstepped its constitutional authority in passing the 1996 law.
According to the New York Times, Judge Bernard Friedman ruled on Tuesday that Congress had violated the commerce clause of the Constitution by enacting the ban, and that only individual states have the constitutional power to outlaw female genital mutilation. He wrote in his ruling that “[a]s despicable as this practice may be, it is essentially a criminal assault,” and “’local criminal activity’” and therefore outside of federal regulation.
Friedman’s ruling came about in a case against Jumana Nagarwala, a doctor from outside of Detroit who is accused of cutting the genitals of nine girls ages 7 to 13. Another doctor, internist Fakhruddin Attar, was also implicated in the case, as were four parents who allegedly brought their daughters to Nagarwala to be cut. Friedman’s ruling dismissed the main charges against Nagarwala.