Sahiyo Participates in “Challenges to Minority Women’s Rights and Development in Maharashtra” Roundtable.

On the 25-26th of March, Sahiyo co-founder, Shaheeda Kirtane attended a roundtable conference to celebrate the 125th Birth Anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and to raise awareness about Dr. Ambedkar’s great contributions for welfare of society and especially women. In collaboration with the Minorities Development Department, Government of Maharashtra, and Tata Institute of Social Science, the two-day seminar focused on “Challenges to Minority Women’s Rights and Development in Maharashtra”. The broad issues for deliberation and discussions for the seminar were:

  • Socio-economic situation of religious minority women in India and specially in Maharashtra
  • Discriminatory social practices and hostile environments: domestic and work place
  • B.R. Ambedkar and the constitutional provisions for rights of women
  • The way out and learning from other societies/countries
  • Government schemes for women’s development

Despite significant improvements over the years in legislation and social practices related to women, gender justice remains a far cry in many developing countries. For a majority of women in India, irrespective of their class, creed and regional locations, the ‘right to property’, ‘education’ and ‘freedom’ remain distant dreams and their lives revolve around the male-dominated social practices.

Among the women, those from religious minority communities suffer from multi-fold deprivations. First, as being women in a patriarchal society. Second, as women belonging to already marginalised minority communities, and third, their relations with state which is yet to provide equal opportunities to women in critical spheres.

To contribute to the discussion on women’s rights, Shaheeda was a part of an expert panel discussion where she engaged the audience with a presentation on “Discriminatory Social Practices in the 21st Century: ‘Khatna/Khafd’ amongst the Dawoodi Bohras of India”. She shared information and discussed the non-confrontational approach taken up by Sahiyo to tackle the secret, pre-pubescent, coming-of-age ritual of ‘khatna,’ which is often looked upon as an “African” practice by many in India. She also discussed the much needed attitudinal change that is essential for the community to discard this outdated, patriarchal practice that has no medical or religious basis, and serves as an ancient tool used for oppression of women.



2 thoughts on “Sahiyo Participates in “Challenges to Minority Women’s Rights and Development in Maharashtra” Roundtable.

  1. Zeenat Alibhai

    Dear shaheeda in 0ne of your presentations you said that khafd reduces female sexual pleasure .However according to the ‘sahifa’ page shown elsewhere in this site it states that the tip of the clitoral hood also known as prepuce is to be trimmed only .This type of procedure is also known as unhooding /hoodectomy and is gaining popularity where women do it in private clinics the reason being to increase their sexual pleasure (orgasm) the science behind is that it allows the clitoris to ‘breathe’ so on what grounds can you say that this procedure reduces women sexual pleasure ? Please explain

    1. Dear Zeenat,

      I will quote from a paper that was published in the British Medical Journal in 1999 and tell you a little bit about the prepuce (

      “The prepuce is an integral, normal part of the external genitalia that forms the anatomical covering of the glans penis and clitoris. The outer epithelium has the protective function of internalising the glans (clitoris and penis), urethral meatus (in the male) and the inner preputial epithelium, thus decreasing external irritation or contamination.”

      So now that I have elaborated on the role of the prepuce, also known as the “hood”, allow me to explain the role it plays in a woman’s sexual functioning by using the same paper to quote, “The prepuce is a specialized [] tissue which marks the boundary between mucosa and skin; it is similar to the eyelids, labia minora, anus and lips. The unique innervation of the prepuce establishes its function as an erogenous tissue.”

      As the entire area around the clitoris, including the “hood” is richly innervated with receptors, the receptors allow sensory information, like touching and stroking, to be received by the brain and translated into pleasurable sensation that results in an orgasm. Therefore, by removing the “hood” one could be overexposing the clitoris to undue, undesirable abrasion or overstimulation (e.g. from rubbing of clothes) – remember, the prepuce also plays a protective role.

      Now, about the breathing of the clitoris bit! Physiologically, the clitoris does not need to “breathe” like a human being, plant or animal does; it receives all its nutrient (glucose, minerals, vitamins, etc.) and oxygen requirements from the capillaries in the area.

      A hoodectomy is a medical procedure that is only performed in cases when a medical doctor finds that there is excess prepuce tissue or when there are small clitoral nodes, making it harder to climax and achieve orgasm. It serves a very specific purpose and it is inadvisable to perform the procedure without medical consent, and especially not by someone who is untrained and lacks extensive experience in performing this extremely delicate surgical procedure.

      In the case of most Dawoodi Bohras women who get “khatna” done as a child by their friendly “mullaani” in Bohri Mohallah, you will agree with me that these ladies have no expertise in the area of medicine and zero knowledge of anatomy? A child who is taken for “khatna” usually struggles, as they are held down forcibly and against their wishes. In the struggle how much of genital tissue is excised could vary from little to extensive. If any amount of normal female genital tissue, including the prepuce and clitoris, is unnecessarily excised, it would have an impact on sexual function. Today, even if a doctor is doing “khatna” it cannot be considered safe because it requires a lot of expertise, like I have stated earlier, and the doctor would be going against medical ethics.

      Besides, the main issue is also that of consent: hoodectomy is a choice that adult, sexually-active women can make for themselves after medical advice, in case they are facing difficulties reaching orgasm because of excess prepuce tissue or a small glans. Khatna, on the other hand, is done completely without the consent of small girls, at an age when there is no way anyone can know whether she has a problem of excess tissue/small glans, or whether her anatomy is perfectly normal.

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