The Supreme Court referred a plea challenging the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) among Dawoodi Bohra Muslims to a five-judge constitution bench on Monday, 24 September.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud made the decision after hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by a Delhi-based lawyer challenging the practice.
FMG is performed “illegally on girls (between five years and before she attains puberty)”, and is against the “UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which is India is a signatory”, the plea said, adding that the practice causes “permanent disfiguration to the body of a girl child”.
A group of Dawoodi Bohra Muslims had earlier told the apex court that the female circumcision is practised by a few sects of Islam, and that a larger constitution bench should examine its validity if there is a legal challenge.
NGO WeSpeakOut Disappointed By SC's Decision
WeSpeakOut, an NGO run for survivors of FGM, is, however, "hugely disappointed" with the Supreme Court's decision. According to a statement put out by the NGO, they believe that this will now mean more delay in getting a verdict on the matter.
Expressing their disappointment, Masooma Ranalvi, founder of WeSpeakOut said, “What is shocking is the clear volte-face by Attorney General KK Venugopal, who, on previous occasions, had said in the courtroom that he supported the petitioner, and that the act of FGM is clearly a crime under Indian laws. Today, the AG supported the plea of the Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom (DBWRF), the group which is petitioning for the continuance of the practice of FGM, for a Constitution Bench which will decide on the issue of religious rights and freedom.”
They also pointed that despite being told otherwise, "there is no visible and concrete action by the government to stop or prevent the practice."
Last week, Prime Minister Modi met with the Syedna, the head of the Bohra community who is openly promoting and propagating the practice of FGM. The question which comes to our mind then is, is the Bohra beti not important and should a practice like FGM be allowed to continue? Why has the PM, who says he is so concerned about issues of Muslim women, not raised the issue of FGM with the Syedna? And why has his government chosen to dither and delay any action aimed at banning this practice, rather than taking immediate steps to protect the young girls who are being cut every day?Excerpt from a statement by WeSpeakOut
(With PTI inputs)