This article is written by Roshni Agarwal from Amity Law School, Noida.
WHAT IS FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION:-
Female genital mutilation is also known as ‘female circumcision’ or ‘khatna’. It is the process in which a woman’s genitalia is altered, injured, or cut off for non-medical, spiritual, sexual, and cultural reasons. The process is performed when a girl child attains the age of six or seven years by the partial or complete removal of ‘clitoral hood’. This act is performed in the presence of mothers and grandmothers all the child.
In Islam, the clitoral hood is popularly known as “haram ki booti” which is considered as a sign of impurity for women. The practice was first started by the ‘Dawoodi Bohra’ community in some parts of Africa and later spread to the world.
This practice is also prevalent in some parts of India. In an interview Masooma, a 42 years survivor claimed that like every girl child, she too was asked to accompany her grandmother to Bohri Mohalla, a cluster where 90% of people of the Bohras community live. They both went into the dark decrepit building and oldish-looking women cut off something. The moment was indeed painful and traumatizing. These types of stories are endless.
According to World Health Organization, More than 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk for FGM annually and more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been subjected to the practice, according to data from 30 countries where population data exist.
According to World Health Organization, Female genital mutilation is mainly divided into four types.
Type 1 Complete or partial removal of the clitoral hood. This procedure is called clitoridectomy.
Type 2 This type is known as excision, which completely removes the clitoral hood along with the labia minora or without removing the labia majora.
Type 3 Infibulation is the procedure through which the opening of the vagina is narrowed down by creating a seal. The seal is formed by cutting or repositioning the labia majora or labia minora. It can also be done by way of stitching.
Type 4 It includes all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia i.e. burning, incision, pricking, piercing, cutting, etc.
REASONS FOR PERFORMING FGM:-
- The process accepted by the community is important for women and it is an ancient religious practice followed by the Bohra community that they are not allowed to question its authority. For being part of the community the process should be necessarily performed and if they fail to do so they are regarded as an outcast.
- This is also considered as the process to increases the pleasure in the sexual life of the woman and her husband and it also protects women’s virginity at a young age. This prepares a girl child for marriage and adulthood.
- The presence of the clitoral hood in the female genitalia is often regarded as a sinful lump of flesh after the removal of the clitoral hood, women become spiritually pure as it cleanses their body which reflects on their face. In many communities after the completion of the operation girls are rewarded gifts and celebrations.
- The act shows the domination of men over women because in many communities clitoris is associated with men. It is practiced to curve women’s sexuality. This process restrains girls from having extramarital sexual acts.
SUPPORTERS OF FGM:-
- According to Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, FGM is an act of religious piety. A senior spokesperson of the community claimed that it was an act of cleanliness or taharat.
- Female proponents of circumcision claimed that it increases sexual arousal in women and helps maintain hygiene. This practice was not new but it was prevalent even in the time of Prophet Muhammad and it is mentioned in some hadiths.
- When it was constitutionally challenged by survivors of the FGM, it was claimed that it was their religious practice and that they had a right to practice and propagate it.
CONSTITUTIONAL VALIDITY OF FGM:-
In May 2017, A PIL was filed by Sunita Tiwari addressing the issue of female genitalia mutilation and sought a ban on FGM. Another petition was filed by an advocate challenging the validity of FGM as it violates the fundamental rights of the girls i.e. Right to Equality and the Right to Life which can not be infringed at any cost. The opposite counsel argued that it hinders their right to propagate religion protected under Articles 24 and 25. In September 2018 Apex Court of Justice decided to refer the case to the larger bench of seven judges. The court held that the issue is seminal and it contradicts the power of the court to decide whether a practice is essential to religion.
In my opinion, Female Genital Mutilation is a non-criminalized crime in India. There should not be any religious practice that endangers the life of a minor. According to proponents, it does not harm girls but it has been scientifically proven that it affects them mentally, physically, and emotionally. Some of the complications are severe pain, hemorrhage, genital tissue swelling, menstrual, vaginal, and urinary problems. It seriously traumatizes a victim. No one should have the right to curb a girl’s sexuality. Such practices encourage gender discrimination. The operation violates the fundamental rights of the child i.e. right to equality, right to life and at the same time, it promotes child exploitation which is again a heinous crime against humanity. A minor girl who does not even understand the purpose behind the execution of the action how she can give her consent? A girl has all the rights to grow up naturally. Each part of the body has its own functions that should not be changed. Strict laws should be made by the legislature to eliminate such practices completely. Campaigns, workshops and group discussions should be organized to raise awareness among citizens, religious leaders or by building knowledge about the causes, consequences, and costs of practice why health care providers leave practice, how they leave practice, and how to care for people who experience FGM.
- Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Global Concern UNICEF, New York, 2016.
- https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation 3. https://www.hindustantimes.com/static/fgm-indias-dark-secret/
- https://www.unicef.org/stories/what-you-need-know-about-female-genital-mut ilation
- https://sahiyo.com/2017/05/19/why-do-dawoodi-bohras-practice-khatna-or-fe male-genital-cutting/
- https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/female-genital-mutilation 7. https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/fgm/ending_fgm/en/ 8.