An attorney is applauding a federal ruling that appears, at first glance, to shrug off the brutal practice of female genital mutilation.
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A federal judge in Michigan ruled last week that a federal law protecting girls from genital mutilation is unconstitutional, a case brought about after several doctors carried out the procedure in Michigan.
FGM is a religious custom performed by Dawoodi Bohra, a Muslim sect that included Dr. Jumana Nagarwala and other Detroit-area defendants who are accused of mutilating 100 girls over 12 years.
Women's rights's groups described the ruling as a "setback" for girls' protections, and the U.S. Attorney's Office also denounced the ruling.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman called the practice "despicable" but ruled that Congress has no authority to enact such a law, Fox News reported.
"I wish we had more federal judges who are willing to rein back the authority of the federal government," responds attorney Rob Muise of the American Freedom Law Center.
"The court didn't find that there was some sort of right of Muslims to engage in female genital mutilation," Muise explains. "What [Friedman] did find was that Congress didn't have the right to prohibit it as a matter of criminal law without there being some basis in the Constitution for the authority to do so."
Michigan has an anti-FGM law that includes a 15-year maximum sentence, Muise points out, while the federal law is only a five-year maximum.
According to The Associated Press, only about half the states have laws prohibiting female genital mutilation.
"This should be a notice to all states," Muise tells OneNewsNow, "that you need to pass state laws that prohibit this sort of conduct."
The doctor and other defendants are still facing federal charges of conspiracy and obstruction.