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"Khatna is violation of the human rights"

September 04th, 2017
in:Humans
by:Shuriah Niazi
located in:India, Pakistan, Yemen
tags:Africa, genital mutilatio, human-rights, women's rights

Sakina (name changed) still has the vague memory of the day she was taken to a local doctor by her mother where she was lured to remove her innerwear and a rusted knife sliced through her clitoris.

At that time she didn’t understand what it was and why the ‘surgery’ was performed on her. But the trauma and excruciating pain that she experienced scarred her and years later she realized what it was.

She says “It was a traumatic experience. Years later I realized that I had undergone female genital mutilation. In the name of fulfilling a custom, the most intimate part of my body was cut by a person who did not have any medical training.”

Sakina continues, “I realize my mother who took me to the ‘doctor’ was helpless. In a patriarchal society like ours, women don’t have the power to take the decisions even on issues that concern them.”

Female genital cutting or mutilation (FGM), or Khatna as it is known among the Indian Bohra community, is the process of cutting the clitoral hoods or removing part of the female genitalia. According to WHO, there are no medical benefits of any type of FGM and the practice can in fact be harmful.

“Khatna is violation of the human rights of the girls and women”, another woman of the community who did not wish to be identified says. “It shows how females continue to be discriminated in the Bohra community. The practice adversely affects their physical and mental health.”

Another woman from the Bohra community, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “there is no debate on the subject. We have been unquestioningly following this unjust tradition which finds no mention anywhere in the Qur'an and is therefore not an Islamic practice. It is not practiced by all Muslim sects.”

Khatna or female genital cutting is a procedure which is physically and mentally devastating for the girls. The painful memories associated with the procedure stay with the girl for many years often for the rest of her life. This custom has been followed for centuries in many communities all over the world particularly in some African countries. In India, members of Dawoodi Bohras community, which is a Shi'ite branch of Islam, follow this practice. The population of this community is about two million in the country, and they are mainly settled in the states of Maharashta, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and
Rajasthan.

This custom has been followed without any opposition for several centuries and not many people outside the Bohra community in India know about it. Mainly because any discussion on the topic has long been taboo.

But the things are now changing. In 2015, some women of the Bohra community decided they would not take it anymore. They united against the practice, formed a group called Sahiyao and launched a campaign which they named ‘We Speak Out On FGM’ under the leadership of Masuma Ranalvi. They shared the trauma and loss suffered by them and decided to declare war on the practice of Khatna, which they called inhumane and degrading.

The signature campaign launched by the women on Change.org against female genital mutilation generated thousands of supporters and voices opposing Khatna came to the fore from across India. Even the women of Bohra community raised their hands in defiance. The petition garnered over 90,000 signatures from both men and women and was submitted to the government. However, the campaigners did not receive any response from the government.

But the women are far from disheartened and have decided to continue their battle against FGM. They feel a beginning in the right direction has already been made as women of the community today are more vocal
against this practice and realize that no one has the right to force them to undergo the potentially harmful procedure that interferes with their sexuality.

They are buoyed by the recent success of the campaign against triple talaq. Masuma Ranalvi, convener of the ‘We Speak Out On FGM’ campaign, has now written to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard. Modi had unequivocally supported the Muslim women in their campaign against triple talaq (the practice that allows Muslim men to annul the marriage by uttering word talaq, meaning 'divorce' in English, thrice) and therefore the campaigners have high hopes from him.

In her open letter to Modi, Ranalvi wrote the nation became independent 70 years back but the Bohra women are yet to enjoy the taste of freedom as they continue to be exploited in the name of custom and religion.

Ranalvi wrote that when a girl turns 7 or 8 she is taken to an untrained local ‘doctor’, usually a quack, by a female member of the family. She is not told where she is being taken and what will be done to her. The local doctor cuts her clitoris. The aim of the procedure is to suppress the girl’s sexual desires and make sex less enjoyable for her.

In May this year Sunita Tiwari filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking total ban on the practice of Khatna carried out on minor girls. Tiwari contended the practice is a grave violation of the rights of children and is carried out without any medical reason. The Supreme Court has now sought the government’s response on this issue.

Article written by:
Shuriah Niazi
Author
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Embed from Getty Images
“It was a traumatic experience. Years later I realized that I had undergone female genital mutilation. In the name of fulfilling a custom the most intimate part of my body was cut furtively by a person who did not have any medical training.”
Embed from Getty Images
“I realize my mother who took me to the ‘doctor’ was helpless. In a patriarchal society like ours women don’t have the power to take the decisions even on issues that concern them.”
Embed from Getty Images
“It shows how females continue to be discriminated in Bohra community. The practice adversely affects their physical and mental health.”

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