No More Female Genital Mutilation: Dawoodi Bohra Women Crusade
(Photo Treatment: <b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo Treatment: The Quint)

No More Female Genital Mutilation: Dawoodi Bohra Women Crusade

Masooma Ranalvi was just seven when her clitoris was snipped off, as part of a ritual that young girls of the Dawoodi Bohra community are made to undergo.

40 years on, Masooma along with other women of the Dawoodi Bohra in the country, decided to launch a crusade against the regressive practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) through a Change.org petition.

The petition urges Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, Minister of Law and Justice, DV Sadananda Gowda and Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Jagat Prakash Nadda to intervene in this shocking, clandestine ritual and ban it from the country.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies FGM as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.
I decided to talk about this issue in part because of my conversations with my daughter, and in part, because of the recent conviction of a retired nurse and the mother of two young girls who were sentenced to seven years in Australia’s first prosecution of an FGM case. That’s when I realised this practice is everywhere.
Masooma Ranalvi
Masooma Ranalvi with her daughter.
Masooma Ranalvi with her daughter.

Barbaric Ritual

The Dawoodi Bohra Shia Muslim sect has been practising female genital mutilation on its young girls secretively for a long time, in a ceremony known as “khatna”. This is done without an anaesthesia.

As the young girl is forcibly pinned to a bed, naked from the waist down, she is told to close her eyes and lay still, while a woman cuts her clitoris and tells her that from now on, she will be a “big girl”.

A bride in a traditional attire after participating in a mass wedding ceremony of the Dawoodi Bohra community. (Photo: Reuters)&nbsp;
A bride in a traditional attire after participating in a mass wedding ceremony of the Dawoodi Bohra community. (Photo: Reuters) 

The Shield of Secrecy

The practice is a secret among members of the Bohra community. It is allegedly done to “curb the sexual drive of women and control them.”

The practice is so secretive that even the young girls are asked not to tell anyone about what happened to them.
Masooma Ranalvi

One might think that the current crop of young mothers wouldn’t let this happen to their daughters, but Masooma was in for disappointment when she learnt that very recently her cousin subjected her seven-year-old daughter to it.

These Dawoodi Bohra sisters, united by their pain, and mental and physical scars got together in a bid to stop this practice in India. They are hopeful that the Indian government will hear their plea, especially after the judgement in Australia.

Already 20 African nations have banned the practice. Nigeria and Gambia recently made FGM illegal after women came together, campaigned and raised their voice against the horrific ritual.

‘Permanent Psychological Scar’

The clergy of the Dawoodi Bohra community in India has been mum about the issue. Masooma fears that the women’s battle will prompt a backlash from the community.

The Dawoodi Bohras are a highly educated Muslim community in India. They are the only Muslim community that practise this ritual.

 Muslim women inside a mosque watch proceedings of a mass wedding organised by the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim sect in Bombay. (Photo: Reuters)
Muslim women inside a mosque watch proceedings of a mass wedding organised by the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim sect in Bombay. (Photo: Reuters)
By removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies get affected. With the practice being done mostly without medical supervision, it often leaves life-long scars. There have also been cases where girls have bled profusely following the “ritual”.

FGM leads to pain, shock, tetanus, genital sores, excessive bleeding, etc. It also has long-lasting psychological impact on the victims, ranging from sexual disorders, fear of sexual intimacy, nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Dawoodi Bohra women are now clamouring to have this practice banned in India. They are asking the Indian government to pass a law banning this practice, “such that anyone found involved in aiding, abetting and perpetrating this practice should be punished.”

“FGM leaves one with a permanent psychological scar”, says Masooma. “Young girls shouldn’t have to go through it”.

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