Female Genital Mutilation in India

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This post has been written by Drishti Mehra, a student pursuing a B.A, LL.B. from Amity Law School, Noida.

Yes, this is right female genital mutilation is still practiced in native parts of India, not only in other parts of the world. Although the United Nations had declared this violation of human rights and yet it is not banned in India or any law is made. In a study, it showed that 75% of the Bohra Muslim community still follows this practice.

They promise to take you out for movies, gardens or chocolates instead they take you to the darkroom or some dingy place to cut off your part of the vagina i.e. clitoris with some knife or sharp object and do it in the name of culture. All this is done when a girl reaches the age of six or seven as the community thinks clitoris as the ‘haram ki boti’ or simply said unwanted skin on the body. The idea behind cutting off the part of the vagina is padded with centuries of patriarchy i.e. if she experiences the pleasure then she may bring shame in the family or astray in the marriage.

What is female genital mutilation?

In layman’s terms, it is cutting the part of the vagina for non-medical reasons but for cultural ones and it is declared a violation of human rights internationally by the United Nations.

WHO (World health organization) classifies four types of FGM: type 1 (partial or total removal of the clitoral glans); type 2 (partial or total removal of the external and visible parts of the clitoris and the inner folds of the vulva); type 3 (infibulation, or narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal), type 4 (picking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area).

It is practiced not in the parts of India but in many countries. Most girls and women who have undergone FGM live in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, but it is also practiced in some countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. 

The occurrence of the FGM

It was initiated by Dawoodi Bohra, a sect of Shia Islam with one million members in India known as khatna or khafz, the procedure involves cutting the full or half part of the clitoris. The spiritual leader of Dawoodi Bohra stated in religious books written over a thousand years ago, specify the requirements for both males and females as acts of religious purity.” The statement also emphasized the need to “respect the law of the land”.

The Dawoodi Bohra Women for Religious Freedom (DBWRF) is a group that was established in May 2017 by six Bohra women to support their “beliefs, customs, culture and religious rights”. It claims to represent the views of nearly 75,000 women who are followers of Mufaddal Saifuddin. The Dawoodi Bohra Women Religious Freedom states that the form of FGM practiced by the Dawoodi Bohra is a harmless procedure and not mutilation.

Dawoodi Bohra Women Religion Freedom stated their mission is to “stand for the rights of Dawoodi Bohra women in India” to ensure they have the same freedom as other citizens, particularly by defending women who are victimized for their religious beliefs, practices, customs, and culture.

How FGM effect later in life?

Cases of women experiencing horrible pain have been reported as they don’t even know what has happened to their bodies. The cases had been reported of urine infection, problems in deliveries, also one case was reported of sepsis after having had khatna and great effort had been made to revive her.

In a study, twenty Bohra women were examined by the doctor and it was reported that only a specialist would be able to separate and cut the clitoral hood without cutting the clitoris. According to the doctor, half of the women feel some kind of irritation, while 30% either feel discomfort while walking or urinating or may have lost sensitivity in that area. The study covered 83 women and 11 men from five Indian states and found that 75% of the respondent’s daughters who were at least seven years old had been subjected to FGM.

Why is India becoming the hub of FMG?

The Muslim Bohra community is spread over western cities like India, Pakistan, East Africa, Yemen, and some parts of America and Australia.

India is now becoming a hub for FGM because of the recent legal action taken against FGM among Bohras in Australia and the USA. In 2016, Australia sentenced three Dawoodi Bohras to 15 months in jail under the country’s female genital mutilation law. In 2017, United States officials arrested two doctors in Detroit for allegedly cutting the private parts of six girls; the trial is still underway.

In 2018, a bench of then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud referred a petition seeking a ban on FGM among Dawoodi Bohra girls to a five-judge Constitution Bench. This PIL was filed by Delhi-based lawyer Sunita Tiwari, who sought a declaration that the practice amounts to a violation of a woman’s right to life and dignity.

The Dawoodi Bohra community, on the other hand, maintained that the practice should be allowed since the Constitution grants religious freedom under Article 25.

Conclusion

Imagine being promised chocolate or movie, but taken to a dingy place instead with sharp knives around and they cut the part of your vagina because they believe it’s against their culture to keep that part or consider it as ‘haram ki boti’.

All this is still happening in different parts of the world and in India too, this practice is padded with patriarchy over thousands of years back written in some books. Girls of age six or seven face this kind of brutality and they don’t even know what is happening to them and later in life, they face problems such as infections and irritation in urinating or walking. In one of the victims, the case of sepsis was reported too and she was diagnosed with due care, then she got better.   

There are so many girls around the globe who has faced this torture and many laws were also made but still, some people from the Bohra community still practices FGM, and women of the Bohra community create a group to promote this practice. Then the court interfered in between when a PIL was filed in 2017 by the lawyer and the opposition claimed that it’s within their rights under article 25 and 26 of the constitution of India. Later, the court held that this does not come under religious rights but a part of cultural rights.   

 

References

  1. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-what-is-female-genital-mutilation-6254573/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Female_genital_mutilation_in_India

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