Read Sahiyo co-founder Insia Dariwala’s Women’s Day speech

This speech was delivered by Sahiyo co-founder Insia Dariwala on March 8, 2016, on the occasion of International Women’s Day. The speech was part of a unique women’s rally called ‘Breaking Barriers, Claiming Spaces – Women Unite to Demand Equal Rights Within Religion’. The rally, held at Azad Maidan in Mumbai, was co-organised (among others) by the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan and the Bhumata Ranragini Brigade, who are fighting for women’s rights to enter dargahs, mosques and temples in India. (To view a video interview of the event, click here.)

The speech is in Hindi, transliterated in Roman:

“Hum ne hamarey organization ka naam Sahiyo  rakha hai. Sahiyo ka matlab hai saheli… kyunki hum maante hai ki samaaj mein sudhaar dosti hi laa sakti hai, dushmani nahi.

Aaj yahan jitni bhi aurtein hai, sab ki ek hi ladai hai: samaanta ki ladaai…sabhi chahti hai ki samaaj mein aurton aur mardon ka barabari ka darja ho, unke saath ek jaisa vyavhaar ho…mai bhi iss baat se sehmat hoon. Magar Sahiyo ki ladai samaanta ki ladai nahi hai. Voh iss liye, kyunki mudda hi kuch aisa hai.

Mudda hai khatna ka. Shayad aapko pata na ho, par Bohra Muslim samudaay mein ladkiyon par bhi khatna kiya jaata hai. Ladkiyaan jab saat saal ki ho jaati hai toh unke yoni ke upar ke hisse ko – jisse English mein clitoral hood kehte hai – khatna ke naam par kaafi dardnaak tareeke se kaata jaata hai. Yeh riwaaz kai sadiyon se chali aa rahi hai…ladkiyon ko bina bataye, un par yeh atyachaar kiya jaata hai.

Iss hisse ko hum maaya ang ke naam se jaante hai…aur voh usse haraam ki boti kehte hai, usse bura maante hai. Kehte hai ki ek aurat ko behkaane vale iss hisse ko kaat hi dena chahiye. Bade buzurg log yeh bhi maante hai ki aisa karne se uss hisse ki tahaarat/safai bani rehti hai.

Lekin hum poochhte hai ki aisi safai kis kaam ki, jo ek masoom bachchi ko shaareerik hi nahi, balki zindagi bhar ke liye maansik ghaav de de?

Dukh ki baat toh yeh hai ki Muslim qaum mein hamaare samudaay ko kaafi progressive maana jaata hai. Aurton ki izzat karna, unhe padhaana –likhaana, career banaana, unhe har kshetra mein aage badhna …sab allowed hai. Toh phir itne acche vichaar rakhne ke bavajood hum yeh pichhdi soch kaise rakh sakte hai?  

Agar baat sirf safai ya hygiene ki hai toh kyun na hum unn bacchiyon ko safai ki seekh de?

Hum aaj yeh khul ke kehna chahte hai ki humaari kisi se koi dushmani nahi hai. Hum kisi dharam ke khilaaf nahi…hum kisi dharam ko chalaane waale ke khilaaf nahi…hum khilaaf hai toh sirf unn pracheen traditions ke jo ek ladki ke andar ki aurat ko paida hone se pehle hi maar deta hai. Agar kisi ko yeh lagta hai ki hum Bohra samaaj ko badnaam kar rahe hai, toh yeh soch bilkul galat hai.

Kyunki badnaami agar hui hai toh voh Australia mein hui giraftaari ki vajah se hui hai. Wahaan rehne waale ek Bohra parivaar par sting operation kar ke unhe khatna jaise human rights violation ke liye giraftaar kiya gaya. Unn mein bachchiyon ki maa bhi shaamil thi, aur yeh bade hi dukh ki baat hai. Kyunki sadiyon se chali aayi parampara ki sazaa uss maa ko kyun milni chahiye? Khaas karke kyunki barson pehle, voh bhi iss parampara ka shikaar thi.

Toh hum poochna chahte hai ki aisi sunnat kis kaam ki, jo ek maa ko apni hi bachchiyon se alag kar de, jaise ki Australia case mein hua hai?

Kai cases mein toh yeh bhi hua hai ki iss practice ki vajah se biwi aur shohar mein dooriyaan aa gayi hai. Aur yeh hum apne mann se nahi bol rahe hai. Yeh khud unn mardon ne hame bataaya hai.

Toh agar ik parivvar ki aahooti sirf bachchi ko saaf ya hygienic rakhne ke liye dee jaa rahi hai, toh mai itna hi kahoongi ki hum aaj ikkeesvi sadi mein hai, jahan na saabun ki kami hai aur na hi paani ki. Phir kya fayda aise riwaaz ka jis se shayad poore pariwaar ko dukh ho?  Kya fayda aise riwaaz ka jahan bachchiyon ko saaf banne ke liye apne hi khoon se nahaane ki zaroorat padey?

Hum inn sab sawaalon ka jawaab chahte hai. Kyunki hum yahan par aaj sirf apne liye nahi aaye hai. Hum aaye hai unn tamaam aurton ke liye jinko bachpan mein kaata gaya tha. Hum aaye unn auraton ke liye jinko apne shareer par koi haq nahi…jinhe bachpan se hi kaha jaata hai, “tum sirf ek aurat ho, aadmi se alag ho…”

Jaate jaate mai yahi kahoongi, ki haan hum alag hai, par kamzor nahi. Haan hum alag hai, par majboor nahi.

Meri media se yeh guzaarish hai ki aaj humne yaha par jo bhi kaha hai, usse sirf sansani paida karne ke liye use naa kare, kyunki hum inn shabdon se communication chahte hai, miscommunication nahin.

 

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Before sharing your khatna story, consider country’s own legislation against FGC

Recently, a Sahiyo Volunteer asked us a very important question regarding sharing your khatna story and potential legal ramifications against a family. We always find it tremendously encouraging and inspiring for all those who do share their khatna story with us, but at Sahiyo we want those who share their stories to be made aware of any potential legal ramifications for sharing your story publicly.

This information is in no way given to discourage you from sharing your story, and you should alway consult with a lawyer to gain more specific legal advice on this issue. However, at Sahiyo, our organization does seek to be transparent and honest with all those who connect with us.

Could identifying as a Bohri who has been cut thru social media or media potentially lead to legal ramifications for family or friends who live in a country where FGC has been outlawed, and that country suddenly decides to crack down on it?

ALL COUNTRIES:

For more information on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting Resources listed by Country where it is known to be an indigenous practice or by populations of refugees/immigrants  – See more at http://www.refugeelegalaidinformation.org/female-genital-mutilation-grounds-seeking-asylum#countrylist

CANADA:

For more information, please refer to Dilshad Tavawalla’s blog post on Female Genital Mutilation or Khafd/Khafz or Khatna and Canadian Laws.

You can also visit Ontario Human Rights Commission – FGM in Canada

UNITED STATES:

This is not a simple question. It will depend on

1) If a person was cut in 1995, then it was not a crime in the U.S. or any state because the federal law against FGM/C was passed and went into effect in 1996.

2) If the person was cut in 1997, but outside the U.S., the federal law was in effect, but only for FGM/C committed in the United States. Very few states had laws that early on to bring an FGM/C case.

3) If the person was transported from  U.S. soil for the purposes of being cut and was cut abroad on or after November 2013, then the vacation cutting provision applies.

4) There is also the issue of statute of limitations. How long after the cutting can a criminal or civil case be brought under federal or state law? Is the Statute of Limitation “tolled” (put on hold or frozen) until the 18th birthday and then starts running? If yes, how long after the 18th birthday does the person or prosecutors have?

5) The federal law applies to both children and adults within its jurisdiction. The person who underwent FGM/C or someone legally allowed to act on their behalf would have to bring the charge or bring it to the attention of authorities who would bring the charge. That legal person could be a parent, guardian or court-appointed advocate.

If you are concerned, ask the participants when and where the cutting took place to see if it was illegal in the United States. That’s a start. For more information, please refer to Equality Now’s Fact Sheet – Female Genital Mutilation in the United States

Disclaimer: No Legal Advice Intended.

This blog includes general information and may reference topics on legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice or legal opinion on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal issues problems.

They were going to take a worm from my body

(Trigger Warning: Below is the account of one woman’s experience with FGC. We thank her for being brave and sharing her story with us).

Name: Alifya Sulemanji

Age: 42

City: New York, United States

I, Alifya Sulemanji went through the atrocity of FGM. It’s been 35 years but I haven’t image1 (1)forgotten that day of my life even today.

One morning my mom told me we were going to visit my aunt who lives in Bhindi Bazaar in Mumbai where many of the Bohras live. In the midst of the day my mom, aunt and her daughter (my cousin) told me that they were taking me somewhere to remove a worm from me. I was barely 7 years old then and didn’t know what they were really talking about. I blindly followed them. We entered some building and went up the stairs and got into this lady’s house. I had no clue what was going on.

They told me to lay down on the floor assuring me that it was so they could take out a worm from my body and it was going to be very simple. My mom told me she was so devastated, she decided to leave the room and wait outside. They took off my underpants and I saw the lady remove a brand new sharp Topaz blade from the wrapper. They caught my legs and hands so I couldn’t move. I was watching them innocently, not knowing what’s going on. In a few moments, I was screaming in pain. My private part was in terrible shooting pain and I was crying. They told me to be quiet and I would be fine. The lady dabbed some black power on my cut area to stop me bleeding. After the procedure was done I was told to keep quiet; it was a secret not to be told to anyone. But today I am sharing my experience with the world.

My life has been different since then. Not that I am not happy and successful, but it has left some everlasting effects on me. I have two lovely daughters. Most of the time I am paranoid about their safety and protection. I keep getting bad thoughts that someone might harm them. People have judged me as an over-protective and possessive mom, but they don’t know where it’s coming from. My husband told me that sometimes at night when we are sleeping, he hears me cry in my sleep. Many times I get nightmares about my daughters being in trouble and I wake up screaming. I have unknown fears and phobias. I have seen a psychologist regarding this.

Today, I am happy and proud for standing up for myself.

Now Bakersfield, CA has banned Khatna (FGM/C)!

IMG_2241By Mariya Taher

I grew up in Bakersfield, CA and throughout my childhood and adolescence I attended the Bakersfield, CA Dawoodi Bohra jammat (congregation). I don’t anymore and haven’t in a very long time and I’ll be the first to let you know that fact. I still have family members and friends who do, so by way of extension, I still am connected with this jammat.

I was beyond ecstatic to hear that the Bakersfield, CA jammat had passed a resolution against the practice of Khafd/Khatna, otherwise known as FGC in the larger, global community.

I, too underwent this practice when I was a young girl in the early 1990s. My family was on a summer vacation trip to Mumbai. We regularly went every other year to see family. The summer I was seven was when it happened to me.

I don’t remember much. Just the building. My skirt being raised. Something cutting me. And my mother comforting me afterward. (You can read more about my own story in FGC: A Continuing Tradition.) Yet, the experience had a lasting effect on me, one that I truly did not understand until I was years into my gender violence career.

The continuation of khafd/khatna or FGC is a complicated issue. The people who continue it cannot be viewed as ignorant or uneducated. Many times khatna is done out of love, out of this misconception that in order to be a good mother, one has to ensure their daughter undergoes this type of pain. This is the power of tradition and it is one reason why FGC has continued for thousands of years in varying communities in various parts of the world.

Yet, this resolution banning Khatna in Bakersfield, CA gives me hope. The creation of such a public resolution is a first step and recognition that khafd/khatna is a form of gender violence. That it should not be continued simply out of a sense of duty or tradition. The resolution showcases that sometimes “tradition” is bad, and in this case it can hurt others.

Even with the passage of this resolution, I know very well that some individuals will ignore the edict, and continue khafd/khatna or FGC on their daughters. They will believe that the public resolution was imposed on them out of a formal need because the law of the land they reside in bans it. In fact, if you examine the public resolution closely, you will note that it specifically mentions that khafd has been interpreted as FGM by the United States and by the state of California.

Bakersfield

I already am hearing whispers that this resolution will be ignored not in Bakersfield, but in many other jammats around the world. The public resolutions that have come out so far in Sydney, Melbourne, London, and now Bakersfield show that the religious leaders of these jammats do indeed take this matter seriously, yet it will be up to the individuals themselves to follow their guidance. And it will be up to all those who are working in the anti-FGC world to support the religious leaders in helping their jammats let go of traditions that have no place in our modern world through education and continued dialogue.

 

Empowering Muslim Women through Storytelling: A Roundtable Discussion

Sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the United States of America to the United Nations Permanent Observer Mission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to the United Nations

A CSW Side Event: Empowering Muslim Women through Storytelling: A Roundtable Discussion
Contact: aismail@oicun.org

Speakers include: 

  • Women in Islam, Inc. founder, Aisha al Adawiyah
  • StoryCorps producer, Cailey Cron
  • Muslim Women’s Story Lab participant, Tamara Issak
  • Hijabi Monologues founder, Sahar Ullah
  • Sahiyo co-founder, Mariya Taher
  • Breakthrough’s the G word, Ishita Srivastava
FullSizeRender (2)
Mariya Taher

Description: With the rise of Islamophobia in mainstream media, the need to produce alternative narratives that amplify the voices of Muslim women telling their own stories has never been greater. In the last few years, storytelling collectives like the Muslim Women’s Story Lab and Hijabi Monologues have created platforms for Muslim women to reclaim their own narratives, whether discussing issues of women’s leadership and mosque access to rising anti-Muslim sentiment and questions around race and solidarity with broader social justice movements. Mainstream storytelling initiatives, such as StoryCorps, have sought to engage diverse communities, including Muslim women, through community-based outreach. Others, like Breakthrough’s the G word or Sahiyo’s new FGM/C storytelling initiative that aim to spark discussion on gender identity and gender-based violence through interactive digital platforms. Through this roundtable, we hope to bring together a diverse set of speakers, all involved in storytelling as a vehicle for social change, to focus specifically on how their platforms can be used to amplify the voices of Muslim women worldwide. We hope that you can join the Permanent Missions of the United States and the OIC at this roundtable discussion.

For your registration to be accurately reflected, please email asismail@oicun.org with the subject line: “Muslim Storytelling”. Please note if you are not already in possession of a UN Grounds Pass or registered to attend CSW with a Temporary Grounds Pass you must register by March 16, 2016. 

For more information, visit http://www2.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016/side-events/calendar-of-side-events#21March

For more information on CSW Side events, visit http://www2.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016/side-events/calendar-of-side-events

I AM A BOHRA photo campaign:

More and more Bohras are speaking out against the practice of khatna, or female circumcision, in the media, in blogs, on social media and, most importantly, among their friends and families. We are no longer voiceless, and we will no longer be faceless.

We believe that a girl’s clitoris should not be cut or sliced or pricked in any way, we believe that no one has a right to control a woman’s sexuality, we believe every individual has a right over their own bodies. And we are now saying this through photographs.

Join Sahiyo’s “I am a Bohra” photo campaign and tell the world why you would like the community to stop practicing female khatna. The process is simple:

  • Write up a sign or placard saying “I am a Bohra. I oppose khatna because…[insert your reason]
  • If you’re not Bohra, write up a sign saying “I oppose khatna because…”
  • Pose with the sign, click a photo!
  • Post the photo on Sahiyo’s Facebook timeline or tweet it to @sahiyo2016 or e-mail it to info@sahiyo.com.
  • (Make it your profile picture too, if you like!)

Here are some possible reasons you could cite for opposing khatna:

  • because you cannot cut a part of me without my consent
  • because no one has a right over MY body
  • I have a right over my own sexuality
  • my body is not yours to tamper with
  • I am fine the way God made me
  • my sexual desires do not need “moderation”
  • children should never be subjected to pain
  • because I love my body the way that it is
  • it is against Human Rights
  • I’m opposed to female khatna or khafd because I’m happy with my God given sexuality

Disclaimer: Please note that participation in this campaign does not necessarily mean that the participant has undergone Khatna or FGC. We are asking all those who support an end to the practice of FGC (regardless of their gender) to show their support by taking part in this campaign. We are NOT asking anyone who participates in this campaign to disclose whether or not they have undergone it. 

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Notices by Sydney, Melbourne and London’s Anjuman-e-Burhani Trusts on ‘Khafd’ (Khatna) or Female Genital Cutting

On 8th February, 2016, the Anjuman-e-Burhani Trust of Sydney held a meeting and on 9th

February, a notice was released to all members of the Dawoodi Bohra community in their jurisdiction to honour the laws of the land in which they reside and, accordingly, instructed them to refrain from carrying out the practice of ‘khafd’ or ‘khatna’ (also known as female genital cutting) on their daughters.

In their statement, the Sydney jamaat quoted the Prophet Mohammed Rasulullah (SAW) to ask the community members to respect the laws of their respective countries, like they would their religion, in the lines below:

“Hubbul watan minal imaan”, which means “love of the land of abode is part of faith.”

The Sydney jamaat also informed the community that ‘khafd’ or ‘khatna’ is classified as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) under section 45 of the Crimes Act of NSW and that the practice would ‘…be interpreted to fall within the specific laws in relation to FGM in other states or territories of the Commonwealth of Australia.’ Clearly stating that ‘khafd’ is illegal, irrespective of the place where where it is carried out, Australia or overseas, community members are advised in the strictest terms to not engage in this illegal act. (Letter can be accessed on the Sydney jamaat website: http://www.sydneyjamaat.com/site/login)

This was followed by another notice on 10th February by Melbourne’s Anjuman-e-Burhani Trust, which was along the same lines as Sydney.

Melbourne Resolution pic
Letter to Melbourne jamaat by the Anjuman-e-Saifee (Melbourne)

On 13th February, the London Anjuman-e-Burhani Trust held an ‘extraordinary’ meeting, whereby they passed a resolution instructing all community members to follow in the footsteps of their Australian brothers and sisters and abstain from the act of ‘khafd’. In line with Australia, they quoted the 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq, HH Dr Syedna Muffadal Saifuddin (TUS), who used the Prophet’s words

to drive the message home, and emphasized on the seriousness of the crime of performing FGM on a minor which has resulted in the conviction of three (3) members of Dawoodi Bohra community in Australia by the Supreme Court of New South Wales.

In their statement to community members, they have highlighted the new guidelines on Safeguarding Children from female genital mutilation (October 2015) and said in no uncertain terms that ‘khafd’ is against England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2003 and Scotland’s Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2005. **Also, on the website of the Home Office and the Department of Education, UK government, there are guidelines on Mandatory reporting of female genital mutilation: procedural information (October 2015), which, unfortunately, has not been mentioned in the statement released by London’s Anjuman-e-Burhani.

A welcome step and wise decision, indeed, by our community leaders from Sydney, Melbourne and London. However, it is surprising to note, like Dilshad Tavawalla did in her blog on 17th February  that “All men in the forum were present to reflect, interact and deliberate about the very personal, private, delicate, sensitive, traumatic and grave issue of “Khafz” (Khafd) or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) impacting the lives, physical and psychological integrity, and general well-being of thousands of Dawoodi Bohra girl children and women.” And, she asks a most pertinent question that is on all our minds:

“Why no women?”

In addition, all these statements come as a shock due to the contradictory nature of the fact that the practice of ‘khafd’ finds mention in the Dawoodi Bohra community 3-volume  publication called ‘Sahifa’ (picture attached of the Ninth Print edition: August 2013) that is published by the Aljamea-Tus-Saifiyah – Academy of the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, HH Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin.  In the book, as pointed out by Ms Tavawalla in her blog on 16th February, “the passage enjoins the performance of ‘khafd’ or Female Genital Mutilation on Dawoodi Bohra girls at the age of seven (7) years and the recommended extent and manner for performing it.”

Sahifa – Published by ALJAMEA-TUS-SAIFIYAH – Academy of 52nd al-DAI-AL-MUTLAQ These are editions in Ninth Print: August 2013 (Eid ul Fitr – 1434H). Three (3) volumes.
Sahifa – Published by ALJAMEA-TUS-SAIFIYAH – Academy of 52nd al-DAI-AL-MUTLAQ. These are editions in 9th Print: August 2013 (Eid ul Fitr – 1434H). Three (3) volumes.

It is clear that despite these statements counseling against the practice, not all Dawoodi Bohras subscribe to the decision made by the jamaats of Sydney, Melbourne and London. I will direct you to the 17th February blog of a Dawoodi Bohra woman named  Rashida Mustafa, who passionately advocates for the practice in the name of tradition.  It is truly disturbing to read someone argue in favour of a violent ritual that can leave little girls with terrible and indelible, lifelong scars. Even so, it is obvious from the sacntimonious tenor of Rashida Mustafa’s  blog that the letters from any of three jamaats – Sydney, Melbourne and London never reached her attention.  As Dilshad Tavawalla says in her blog, Rashida Mustafa must “[…] be afraid – very afraid, […]”. The laws in UK, USA and Canada considers anyone who aids, abets or counsels the carrying out of FGM to be a party to the offence, and hence punishable under those respective countries’ laws (even in countries where the practice is legal, according to the FGM Act, 2003, in the UK).

And, last but not least, there remains the big question of eliminating this practice in India – home to the vast majority of Dawoodi Bohras – and where there is no law per se against ‘khafd’.**

What can we expect from our learned brethren at the Anjuman-e-Shiate Ali, which administers and conducts all affairs of the Dawoodi Bohra community in Mumbai? Can we hope that a notice in line with the praiseworthy and proactive statements against ‘khafd,’ like those released by the Sydney, Melbourne and London jamaats (all based in countries where there are strong laws banning FGM/C), will follow suit?

NB: In a recent article by Anahita Mukherji from the Times of India published on 25th February one can read about the existing laws that can be used against ‘khatna’ in India. Noted lawyers Dilshad Tavawalla and Flavia Agnes were quoted in the article and they pointed out specific sections in the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) that can be used for the purpose of taking a case to court.


Give us your feedback on the Sydney, Melbourne and London jamaat notices on ‘khafd’ by writing to us at info@sahiyo.com or tell us what you think of Rashida Mustafa’s blog! We would like to hear your views on any of these topics, especially if you feel strongly about the resolutions released by the London, Sydney or Melbourne jamaats, and would like a similar statement to be put out to the Dawoodi Bohra community in India and elsewhere.

Last Day of Each One Reach One

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Each One Reach One, a unique campaign by Sahiyo (in collaboration with Speak Out on FGM), started a month back on NO FGC/M day, has almost come to an end. Today, on the International Women’s day, Sahiyo concludes the last day of the EORO campaign.

The road to change is a long one but we are glad to have made a start by initiating a conversation and breaking silence on Khatna. And for this we have you to thank, for engaging with the campaign and sharing your stories and narratives with us!

Sahiyo is overwhelmed by the response the campaign has garnered and we hope to hear more from you. Please do continue to reach out to as many people as possible and sharing your stories with us.

For reaching out to us, please email on info@sahiyo.com. We are looking forward to hearing about your Each One Reach One experience and more!

 

 

 

 

Join us at Azad Maidan on March 8 to assert women’s equality within religion

8th MARCH – INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Women Of All Religions Unite To Fight Patriarchy Within

Women Demand Equal Rights To Access Of Places Of Worship

Date: 8th March 2016

Venue: Azad Maidan, near CST, Mumbai

Time: 2.00 pm sharp

Organisers: Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Bhumata Brigade, Sahiyo, Vaghini Sanghatana, Satyashodhak, Roots of Peace, Muslims for Secular Democracy, Gandhi-Ambedkar Vichar Manch & Bharat Bachao Andolan

Religion has been for a long time considered to be the domain of a select few males. Men alone are claimed to have always been the recipients of divine messages, men have been transmitters of the same and men have always kept to themselves the right to read, interpret and apply religious doctrines to the masses. Thus religion has become a tool in the hands of men to suppress women. And this has been going for a very long time. Women on their part have for centuries accepted the hegemony of men over religion thanks to patriarchal socialisation. Men were the givers of religious knowledge and women were the receivers. And if told that they are inferior, that they are impure, women believed in it because it had the force of religion and hence by default the force of God.

With rising consciousness, awareness and an innate confidence in themselves and a strong belief in their own equality before God, women have been raising questions which now are making the men uncomfortable, especially the clergy who have hegemonised religion. It is not surprising that Hindu and Muslim women and women from other minority communities have started raising questions about discrimination within their respective religions. While Hindu women have questioned the restriction on women’s entry into Sabarimala, Shani and Trambakeshwar temples, Muslim women have questioned the decision of the trustees of the Haji Ali Dargah who have stopped women from entering the sanctum sanctorum. Within the Muslim community, Bohra women have begun a campaign to ban the practice of female genital cutting.

Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan has filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court to allow women to enter the sanctum of the Haji Ali Dargah. Bhumata Brigade has made valiant attempts to enter the Shani Shingnapur and Trambakeshwar temples while Sahiyo has been running a campaign to demand a ban on the practice of female genital cutting.

It is important to now celebrate the coming together of women from different religious diversities and to raise a common voice to demand equal rights within religion from the state. Please do join us in large numbers!

New U.S. CDC Study Still Under Reports FGC in this Country

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released an updated report on the estimate of women and girls at risk or those who have undergone FGC living in the United States. To read the report, click here. Since the last official estimate in 1990 of how many people were affected by FGC, the number has grown to 513,00 – this number is triple the estimate from the 1990 figure. This increased figure is attributed to the rapid growth in the number of immigrants from FGC practicing countries living in the United States.

Yet, these numbers are still an underrepresentation of the real number of women and girls who have undergone or at risk of undergoing FGC living in the United States. The report estimated this figure by applying country-specific prevalence of FGC to the estimated number of women and girls living in the United States who were born in that country or who lived with a parent born in that country. These countries included: Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya,  Liberia,  Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, West Africa, Yemen.

However, at the global level recognition that FGC occurs in countries outside of the African continent has only recently become public knowledge. In the last few years, reports of FGC being practiced in India, Pakistan, Iraq, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, various place in Africa, as well as other developed countries where immigrant communities reside (United Kingdom and Australia for example) were not included in these estimates. This limitation to the study is mentioned in the CDC’s report.

Regardless of this oversight in the estimate, the increased figure does validate the need for the U.S. government to provide more education and outreach to practicing communities living in the United States. The figure also points to the need to train social workers, medical professionals, lawyers, etc on the cultural complexities of FGC along with how to work with those women who have undergone this practice in a culturally sensitive manner.