Can We End the Confusion Over FGM Terms? Asks Survivor-Led Org
6 February is International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
6 February is International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).(Illustration: Susnata Paul/The Quint)

Can We End the Confusion Over FGM Terms? Asks Survivor-Led Org

The United Nations (UN) declared 6 February as International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

On this occasion, WeSpeakOut – a survivor led organisation – unequivocally pledges to continue in its efforts to eradicate FGM in India, and is proud to be supported by several human rights organisations, globally and in India.

FGM is defined by the World Health Organisation as “the total or partial removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”, and is widely prevalent in the Bohra community and some other minorities in India.

Also Read : At Least 200 Mn FGM Victims Suffer Life-Threatening Complications

There are many terms and acronyms to describe female genital mutilation (FGM); female genital cutting (FGC), female circumcision (FC), Khatna and Khafz. In the Bohra community specifically, it involves the cutting of a seven-year-old girl’s clitoral hood.

“Ending FGM’s terminology barrier is WeSpeakOut’s specific goal this year. Khafz is FGM,” says Masooma Ranalvi, convener of WeSpeakOut, while speaking to The Hindu.

According to Masooma,

“There is an attempt being made to confuse and obfuscate the gravity of the practice of FGM by using differing terminologies, claiming that FGM is barbaric while Khafz is more civilised. This use of different terms is only meant to belittle the harm caused by Khafz, by glorifying it.”
WeSpeakOut calls upon all Indian political leaders to hear its appeals.
WeSpeakOut calls upon all Indian political leaders to hear its appeals.
(Photo Courtesy: WeSpeakOut)

In this year, when the country faces general elections, WeSpeakOut calls upon all Indian political leaders to hear its appeals and take steps to end FGM’s terminology barrier, and to take a categorical stand to end the practice.

The practice of FGM is condemned by international human rights treaties to which India is a party. India has also pledged to eliminate FGM as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (target 5.3).

Also Read : “Nadaan and Nasamaj at the Age of 7…”: Why FGM Needs to Stop, Now

On 30 July 2018, WeSpeakOut and Equality Now collaborated for their first event titled Eliminating Harmful Practices, Meeting SDG Commitments - Roundtable on FGM/C/Khafz in India. Here, representatives from the global anti-FGM movement and UN agencies discussed the concerted, comprehensive and collaborative approach among government, civil society, survivors, communities and international actors required to eliminate this harmful practice by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

In September 2018, the SC referred a PIL – seeking a ban on FGM – to a 5-judge constitutional bench. WeSpeakOut is also an intervener in this petition.

Before this referral, a three-judge bench of then-CJI Dipak Mishra, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice AM Khanwilkar observed that FGM/Khafz prima facie appears to be a violation of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution, and the bodily integrity of the child. The court also noted that there seems to be no scientific or medical basis for the practice of FGM/Khafz, which is likely to cause a significant amount of trauma, pain and bleeding.

While the practice of FGM does fall under certain sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2013, India does not have any specific law prohibiting the practice of FGM/Khafz.

Last year, WeSpeakOut published the first ground-breaking study on the prevalence, nature and consequence of this practice in the community. According to the study, 75% of all daughters of the sample set were subjected to FGM/C, which means it continues to be practiced on little girls.

As many as 97% of women who remembered their FGM/C experience from childhood recalled it as painful. While most women said they suffered immediate pain from the procedure, only two women said they did not have any immediate or long-term impact from FGM/C.

Also Read : Not Just India: FGM Thrives Within America’s Dawoodi Bohras Too

While sharing extremely personal information, approximately 33% of women subjected to FGM/C in the study believe it has negatively impacted their sexual life. Many respondents in the study reported feeling fear, anxiety, shame, anger, depression, low-self-esteem, and/or betrayal of trust as some of the fallouts that they associated with their FGM/C.

It has been proven that deep-seated patriarchal practices like FGM can be eliminated only if there is a strong political and public will to do so.

A Counter to the Above Statement

Post The Quint’s publication of the above statement from WeSpeakOut, the Dawoodi Bohra Women for Religious Freedom (DBWRF) reached out with its response to WeSpeakOut’s release. Here is the DBWRF’s official statement on the matter:

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