A doctor in Michigan has been charged with performing genital cutting on young girls in what may be the first U.S. case of female genital mutilation (FGM) to be prosecuted under federal law, The Detroit News reported. Although the accused doctor, Jumana Nagarwala, 44, denies the charges, the two 7-year-old girls involved claim that Nagarwala not only cut their genitals, but those of “multiple” other girls as well.

Nagarwala is charged with performing FGM on girls between the ages of six and eight for the past 12 years, The BBC reported. Other parents have also acknowledged that Nagarwala performed procedures on their daughters in the past, Reuters reported. As FGM is a federal crime, the doctor could possibly face a maximum life sentence. Nargarwala, an emergency medicine doctor at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, has denied all charges and is currently on administrative leave.

“Dr. Nagarwala is alleged to have performed horrifying acts of brutality on the most vulnerable victims,” Kenneth A. Blanco, an acting assistant attorney general with the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to stopping female genital mutilation in this country, and will use the full power of the law to ensure that no girls suffer such physical and emotional abuse.”

Read: Labia Stretching, Meant To Sexually Arouse Men, Is The Genital Mutilation Act You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

Nagarwala’s alleged crime came to light when authorities were tipped off that two 7-year-old girls traveled with their parents to a clinic to have Nagarwala perform the procedure on them. The girls then told investigators that Nagarwala had indeed cut them, with one describing the pain as so bad that she could barely walk afterwards, The New York Time s reported. What’s more, medical examinations confirmed that both girls had been cut and had clitoral skin removed.

According to the World Health Organization, FGM involves any procedure in which the female genitals are purposely altered or injured for non-medical reasons. The act is considered a violation of the human right of girls and women, and was made illegal in the U.S. in 1996. In 2006, the law was further revised to make it illegal to not only perform the procedure in the U.S., but also to travel outside of the country to have the procedure done, the BBC reported. According to acting U.S. attorney Daniel Lemisch, this is considered to be a “serious federal felony in the United States,” Reuters reported.

FGM typically involves removing parts or the entire clitoris, but can also encompass cutting labia, blocking off the vaginal canal, or even stretching the labia. The procedure has cultural, not medical, roots, and some societies believe that a woman will not get married unless she has the procedure done. However, not only can the act be psychologically damaging for young women, but it also comes with a number of serious health risks such as severe pain, excessive bleeding, urinary problems, shock, and even death, the WHO report.

See Also:

International Day Of Zero Tolerance For Female Genital Mutilation: Ending The Violation Of 3 Million Girls Each Year

Female Genital Mutilation Is More Widespread Than Previously Estimated; Over 200 Million Women Have Been Victims