Even as female genital mutilation is being made illegal in countries across the world, the Indian government has done little to stop the practice. In a press conference today, Shashi Tharoor along with other activists, released a report with definitive proof of FGM being prevalent in India.
It is 2018 and in India still allows the practice of female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) to carry on. FGM is the practice carried out by certain religious communities, such as the Dawoodi Bohra community in India, which involves the process of removing the external genitalia of girls andRepo young women, either completely or partially. There is no medical reason or benefit behind this custom and it is an excruciatingly painful one, something that scars women for the rest of their lives. Though FGM has been banned in several countries, Indian government seems to be oblivious towards the practice.
In order to urge the government to pass a law and ban this custom, a group of women from the Dawoodi Bohra community had started a petition on Change.org. So far, it has amassed over one lakh signatures.
Along with this, the community called We Speak Out (Twitter handle: @SpeakOutOnFGM) arranged for a Press Conference at 12 pm today where the National Research on FGM/C in India was released to mark the International Day for Zero Tolerance for FGM. Indian MP Shashi Tharoor released the first study with proof of FGM/C in India – ‘The Clitoral Hood a Contested Site: Khafd or Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in India’. According to the Speak Out On FGM group, this new qualitative study is the largest field research study of its kind undertaken nationally in India. Nearly 100 survivors of FGM have spoken out for the first time as part of this study.
Other than Mr. Tharoor, some of the members of the panel discussion were Masooma Ranalvi, one of the leading advocates against FGM, Durga Nandini, Director, Communications for Change.org, and Journalist Harinder Baweja.
In the discussion, several points came up. Some of those were as follows:
- While governments of countries like the U.S. and the U.K. are commissioning studies about FGM and including it in their school curriculum to make children aware of the harmfulness of the practice, the Indian Government is still not willing to believe that such a practice exists in India let alone pass a law to ban this heinous practice that according to the World Health Organization (WHO) grossly violates human rights.
- MP Shashi Tharoor mentioned that though India is a secular country and everyone is free to practice their religion, those religious practices cannot be above the law when it adversely impacts another human being. “Freedom of religion is subject to human rights. A woman’s rights to bodily integrity, as well as her rights to her dignity supersedes the rights to religious practice,” he added.
- Tharoor also mentioned of the importance of having a debate about FGM on the floor of the Parliament but he feared that it might be met with the similar fierce resistance that Article 377 faced.
- One of the members of the panel spoke about the ways in which they are raising awareness about ‘Khatna’ or FGM by speaking about it in social gatherings and events. She mentioned how for the last three years they’ve been campaigning and petitioning to the government if India, and how only a law can help in uprooting this practice which is also a form of child sexual abuse.
- Since there is no law against it in our country, people are coming back from countries where FGM is illegal to get it done in India.
- Shashi Tharoor mentioned that the Bohra community is known for being a socially open and constructive community and one of the principles that they follow is to abide by the laws of their country of residence. Hence, the onus is on the government and judiciary to pass a law thereby making it illegal. He added that it was a criticism on us as a society that FGM is still not outlawed in India.
- The campaigns against FGM have been supported by bodies like National Commission for Women and UNHRC. Mid last year, our Minister for Women and Child Development also took a stand and said that the Bohra community will have to stop this practice failing which the government will need to intervene. However, after that there’s been little progress.
- In December last year, the Supreme Court said that there’s no official record of FGM. However, we need to understand that FGM is done within the family, so how will official records emerge when women are afraid to file FIRs ? It was a matter of immense courage that they showed in starting the petition.
Hence, there is a huge responsibility in the shoulders of our government to start a large scale survey, to study these cases, to carry on an investigations that provide the records that is needed to end this barbaric practice once and for all.
You can sign the Change.org petition here and I strongly urge you to sign it.
Top image via Pexels