વહાલી દીકરી, હું દિલગીર છું તારી ખતના થઇ

વહાલી  દીકરી, હું દિલગીર છું તારી ખતના થઇ

– એક બોહરા પિતા ની દિલ ની વ્યથા

વહાલી દીકરી,

ઘણા વર્ષો પહેલા મેં એક ભૂલ કરી. તારી મમ્મીએ આવીને મને કહ્યુ કે હું અપની દીકરી ની ખતના કરાવ છું. મને આ પ્રક્રિયા વિષે કાંઈજ ખબર ન હતી. મેં એમ માની લીધું કે તારી મમ્મીનેજ આ બાબતે વધારે સમજ છે. તારા ઉપર જે ગુઝર્યું એમાં મારું અજ્ઞાન કોઈ બહાનું નાજ હોવું જોઈએ. આ ઘટના પછી મેં ઘણી વાર તારી મમ્મી ને પૂછ્યું કે એક ભણેલી સ્ત્રી, જે એવા દેશમાં રહે છે જ્યાં આ પ્રક્રિયા ગેરકાયદેસર ગણાય છે, તે પોતાની દીકરી ને એના આધીન કેમ કરી શકે? મને ક્યારેય સંતોષ જનક જવાબ મળ્યો નહી. ફક્ત એમજ કહેવામાં આવ્યું કે ‘તે આપનો ધર્મ છે’. આ જવાબ હું ક્યારેય સ્વીકાર નથી કરી શકતો.

જ્યારે તારી સાથે શું થયું એ વિસ્તૃત રીતે વાંચ્યું તો મારી આંખો ભરાઈ આવી. આટલા વર્ષો થી હું અંજાન હતો કે તારી ઉપર શું તકલીફ ગુઝરી છે. તું તો માસૂમ હતી. જાને કેટલા પિતાઓ મારા જેવીજ સ્થિતિ માં હશે, છેવટે આ અમાનુષી કૃત્ય ને જાની ને અંજાન કે પોતાની પુત્રીએ એટલા વર્ષો થી શું વેદના મન માં દબાવી રાખી છે.

મને યાદ છે જ્યારે પહેલી વાર તને મેં હાથ માં લીધી હતી ત્યારે મનોમન હર્કાયો હતો કે તું પરિપૂર્ણ છે. મને વર્ષો થી દીકરી જોઈતી હતી. તારી અંદર કાંઈજ કમી ન હતી, છતાય તારી વાઠકાપ કરવામાં આવી. હું દિલગીર છું. હું જાણું છું કે તને આપયેલા સંસ્કારોજ તને પાપ કરવા થી રોકે છે, બીજું કાંઈજ નહી.

વિચારું છું કે તું ફક્ત પાંચ વર્ષ નીજ હતી. તારા સાથે શું થઇ રહ્યું છે તેનાથી તદ્દન અંજાન અને ઘબ્રાએલી. હું દિલગીર છું કે તારી રક્ષા કરી ન શક્યો. અજ્ઞાન એ કોઈ બહાનું નથી ના કે અંજાન થવું સામાન્ય.

હું વચન આપું છું કે આ અમાનુષી પ્રક્રિયા નો અંત લાવવા મારાથી બનતું બધૂજ કરીશ. હું કોશિશ કરીશ કે બંધ બારણા ની પાછળ શું થાય છે તે બીજા બધા પિતાઓને ખબર પડે. છોકરીયો પ્રત્યે નો આ ગુનોહ છે જે ખોટી માન્યતાઓ થી પ્રેરાયને એના પોતાનાજ માણસો એની ઉપર ગુજારે છે.

એક દિવસ જ્યારે તું માં બનશે, હું તારી પાછળ ઉભો રહીશ. મારે આ વસ્તુની કાળજી વર્ષો પહેલાજ લેવાની જરૂર હતી કે જેથી હવે આવનારી પેઢી ને આ તકલીફ વેઠવી નજ પડે જે તુએ ઉઠાવી છે.

This is a translation of the original English post that was published on May 24, 2016. Read the original post here: Dear daughter, I am sorry you were circumcised

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One Woman’s Reactions to Bakersfield’s Resolution against Khatna (FGC)

By Anonymous

Country: United States

Age: In her 30s

When the public resolution on khatna (female circumcision) from the Bakersfield Jamaatvlcsnap-2015-06-08-01h37m39s49.png (community) was released shortly after the Sydney case, an old weight was lifted from me. There. They’ve finally said it. Do not do this.

As I followed the events leading to the trial and prosecution in Sydney, I could only hope an official mandate against khatna would make its way to the U.S. Jamaats and to Bakersfield, where my own khatna was performed. It did. Thanks to the brave whistleblowers in Sydney and the upstanding efforts of the Sahiyo women, we’ve seen the snowball of these resolutions from Dawoodi Bohra communities all over the world.

The victory however, was short-lived for me as I’m sure it was for many others working to educate people about this practice. To no one’s surprise, statements from the central dawaat (clergy), are suggestive of these resolutions being just a way to protect our communities legally—to prevent another Sydney, to prevent another Amil from going to jail, and lessening the impact of these letters.

If you read the resolutions carefully, the focus was never about taking ownership, but to use the state or country of residence as the scapegoat for denouncing the practice. Even worse, our sisters in India and other countries where there are no such laws can still be subject to this practice. We need a resolution not from the Jamaats, but from the head of the community. We do not do this.

Following the discovery of my own cutting many years ago, I remember attending a women’s function at home and anonymously submitting a question as to why we practiced khatna. The question was deferred by the M.C. to a doctor in the Jamaat who stood with authority and explained how it was essentially a matter of “cleanliness”—nothing more and nothing less. There was no mention of sex or sexuality at all.

I looked around at all of the women nodding their heads in agreement, some smiling even, so accepting. I was infuriated by her response, knowing otherwise, and wanted to scream at the top of my lungs in protest. I didn’t because I knew it was futile. How could I go up against an official voice and a women’s doctor? How could I blame the participants for their naiveté, many of whom were her trusting patients? For years I have been deeply troubled by this dichotomy.

This was the one and only time that I had ever heard anyone in my community even address this practice aloud. To my knowledge, it was never brought up in a public forum like this again, although by this time my attendance at such functions began to dwindle.

Reflecting back on this particular event and similar others growing up in this community, I am at times in disbelief that we are having this conversation. More, that we are forcing this conversation, and people are listening now. I often felt hopeless that there was little official action that could or would be taken on such an underground practice because so few people were willing to speak up or speak out. Many of my family and friends were unwilling to even talk with me about it in private.

Am I confident the Dawoodi Bohras of Bakersfield and the surrounding cities who come to Bakersfield for khatna will abide by the resolution? Unfortunately, no. There are some people who will continue to drive the practice even further underground. The small victory here is that these resolutions by local Jamaats, have created the necessary dialogue for community members to be aware this practice is even taking place, and to give families the option to opt-out in the name of the law.

When my khatna was performed, there was no state law against female genital mutilation and no “opt-out” from the Jamaat. My family had no understanding and no choice–the alternative being unrelenting pressure to perform the cutting or social ostracism.

To the families with young girls in Bakersfield and throughout the U.S. – please listen. This is your chance to end this practice once and for all. A voiceless seven-year old will grow up, and ask the same questions I am asking now. Why did this happen to me? Yes the legal consequences are certainly not worth the risk, but more importantly, the physical and psychological consequences that can result from this trauma are not worth the risk. Stand up, and stand with us.

I’m A Survivor of Female Genital Cutting and I’m Speaking Out – As Others Must Too

(This story originally appeared on the Guardian.com on February 8, 2016 and reappeared on the U.S. State Department’s official blog on June 1, 2016. It is republished here with permission).

By Maryum Saifee

Sketch from an AJ+ video on breaking the culture of silence around female genital cutting featuring Maryum Saifee’s story.[Isabeau Doucet/AJ Plus]

I was sitting in an anthropology seminar at the University of Texas cramming for a final, only half-listening to a fellow classmate describe her research project. Female genital mutilation is the partial or total cutting of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons,” she mechanically described. “The procedure typically take places when the girl is seven years old. The process is usually carried out by an older female relative. And once the ritual takes place, it is almost never discussed.” As she spoke, goosebumps began to form and I sat paralysed in my seat. Memories I had suppressed since childhood came flooding to the foreground.

I was seven years old. My parents had sent my brother and me to visit family in India for two months. On a humid mid-summer afternoon, my dad’s sister decided to throw a party for my brother, celebrating his completion of the Qur’an. At the party, she pulled me aside, wielding a jumbo-sized Toblerone. She said that if I stayed on my best behaviour, I wouldn’t have to share it with anyone, including my brother. I was overjoyed.

My aunt was a doctor. So when she led me downstairs to her clinic and instructed me to lie flat on my back on her operating table, I didn’t think to question her authority. With no anaesthetic and very little warning, she performed the ritualised cut. After it was over, we headed back to the party in silence. I remember sitting in a corner by myself, unable to open the chocolate bar bribe and feeling sick to my stomach. I blocked out the memory, until the day when I discovered that what happened to me had an acronym that could be found in the glossary of a medical anthropology textbook.

When I confronted my parents, they were stunned. My aunt had carried out the ritual without their consent. My father felt a unique betrayal. This was the same little sister he encouraged to pursue medicine in the first place. He had no idea that female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) was even practised within the Dawoodi Bohra community, a Shia subsect from India’s coastal state of Gujarat.

As I learned more about the practice, I discovered that more often than not, men are oblivious and may not even know it is happening — or has happened — to their daughters, sisters, and mothers. I learned that FGM/C dates back thousands of years, predating Islam and Christianity. It is a cultural practice that is neither rooted in religion nor bound by geography nor restricted to a socioeconomic class. Like other forms of gender-based violence, FGM/C is a manifestation of power and means of controlling the sexuality of women and girls.

In recent years, many countries have passed laws to criminalise the practice of FGM/C. Yet, it is an extraordinarily difficult crime to prosecute. Laws alone are not enough. For there to be a sustainable end to this practice, there has to be a radical culture change from the ground up, that promotes zero tolerance to any and all forms of excision.

As I have engaged with friends and family members who support the ritual, some will argue that it is not technically mutilation. They even go as far as asserting that “mutilation is what is done in Africa”, as though our community practises a more civilised, humane version. According to the World Health Organisation, all versions of FGM/C cause harm, both physical and psychological, which renders the “good FGC v bad FGM” debate meaningless.

One of the greatest challenges in raising awareness on FGM/C is that many survivors are shamed into silence. If they voice dissent, their communities might socially ostracise them.

Within the last few years I have noticed a shift. More and more FGM/C survivors are courageously speaking out. Male relatives who may have never even been aware of the practice are also taking a stand. From a recent Change.org campaign launched by over a dozen Dawoodi Bohra survivors in India, to Safe Hands for Girls “a youth-powered movement in Gambia”, communities are movement-building and speaking out against FGM/C in greater numbers.

I encourage you to break the culture of silence around FGM/C by sharing this video containing testimonials of fellow survivors and advocates, and joining the global conversation to #endFGM.

About the Author: Maryum Saifee serves as a Policy Advisor in the Secretary’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

The Role of Men in Ending FGM in the Bohra Community

By Ammar Karimjee
Age:24
Country: Pakistan
I found out when I was 19. I’d just heard about the practice of female genital mutilation Ammar(FGM) in an Anthropology class, and had dismissed it as something that simply happens in rural African villages. After class, I’d expressed disgust to a friend about it, something along the lines of “Can you believe people still do things like this?” The friend was a fellow member of the Dawoodi Bohra community, who in this moment realized I must not have known.
After she spoke to me about it, I remained in disbelief. I was sure she must be wrong. I reached out to my mom and sister, and after a few in-depth conversations with them, it settled over me. A mix of emotions – anger, frustration, humiliation – all overcame me simultaneously. I didn’t do anything at first, I just needed some time to let it all sink in. After I’d had time to process, I realized I needed to do something.
At first, most of my involvement in my personal anti-FGM campaign came through conversations with people I knew, primarily men. Even in this initial stage, I realized how essential it would be to effectively engage men as part of this movement. Over time, I became involved in a few more formal networks that were also working on this issue, and through these, I’ve had the chance to speak at the United Nations on this issue as well as be a small part of the This American Life podcast a few weeks ago. It’s been an amazing journey to be a part of.
Below, I’ve shared some of the major learnings/thoughts I’ve developed over the last 5 years. I hope it can serve as a way for some of you to help think through this topic. If you have questions, there are a ton of us here to help guide you to the answers. If you’d simply like to talk further about this, please do not hesitate to reach out. You can always contact Sahiyo at info@sahiyo.com to become connected to others working on ending FGM.
Some men don’t want to even engage in the conversation about FGM. Part of this is because they dismiss it as an unimportant issue on face value, but I believe a larger part of this may have to do with the discomfort that comes with talking about the female body and the lack of knowledge that it results in. As men, we do not intuitively understand the female body and biological processes that occur within it. Of course, we never will be able to truly know what being a woman feels like, but by gaining an understanding of how their bodies work, we can begin to have an idea. Naturally, we compare things that happen with a woman to its closest direct male counterpart. As such, we associate FGM, or circumcision as many people chose to incorrectly refer to it as, as the equivalent of male circumcision. This is a dangerous fallacy for men to turn to in their justification. The function of the male penis and a woman’s clitoris are not identical – not even close. Further, the benefits that come from male circumcision are simply not present in FGM. Please, please, please, do your research and understand the impact of this practice. It is terribly important for men to be aware of women’s bodies – not just specifically to be able to understand FGM, but for so many other reasons, health and otherwise.
For the men who were willing to talk about it, one constant held true – they had never talked about it before. Creating a space to have these conversations became an important part of the larger effort to engage men. But the snowball effect definitely holds true. Individual conversations I was leading turned to group conversations I was just a part of. Soon after, conversations started happening without me there at all. Awareness of FGM in the Bohra community has increased exponentially since I started speaking about this issue, especially in the last few months. However, the conversations happening are still dominated by women. It is of course amazing that so many women have started sharing their stories and thoughts. But we still live in a patriarchal context. Religious leaders are still men. Decision makers in families are still largely men.
We – the men – MUST start caring. We don’t have the option to be silent or ambivalent anymore. We can not keep pretending that it isn’t our problem. These are our friends, our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, and our wives. Read their stories. Understand what FGM is and how it affects them. Once you do, you’ll be as angry as I am. You won’t want it ever happening to anyone you’re close to. We can’t undo what has already happened to hundreds of thousands in our community – but we CAN prevent it from happening from this day forward.
To men everywhere – Start reading. Start talking. STOP FGM.

Our campaign will continue: Sahiyo’s statement in response to Syedna’s official stand on khatna

On June 6, 2016, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin officially released a public statement to the press clarifying his stance on the issue of female genital cutting (khatna/khafz) in the Dawoodi Bohra community. Read Times of India’s report on the statement here.

Since February, several Bohra jamaats in countries like Australia, UK, USA and Canada – where female genital cutting is illegal – have issued resolution letters asking Bohras to follow the laws of the land and stop practicing khafz. According to Syedna’s statement, these resolution letters are still valid despite his sermon in Mumbai that seemed to indicate the contrary. (Read Sahiyo’s response to that sermon here.)

However, Syedna’s statement also categorically promotes khafz for Bohras in general:

“Male and female circumcision (called khatna and khafz respectively) are religious rites that have been practiced by Dawoodi Bohras throughout their history. Religious books, written over a thousand years ago, specify the requirements for both males and females as acts of religious purity. This religious obligation finds an echo in many other Muslim communities, particularly those following the Sunni Shafi’i school of thought.”

Here is Sahiyo’s official statement in response to Syedna’s stand on khatna:

“We thank Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin for officially and publicly speaking on the issue of female genital cutting, since there has been so much silence and confusion on this issue for so long. We are pleased to know that the resolutions issued in several cities around the world, asking Bohra residents to stop practicing khafz, still stand as valid. While we are pleased that the resolutions will continue to be issued in countries where female genital cutting is illegal, we are saddened to see that the Syedna’s statement clearly promotes the practice of khafz in countries where such laws are yet to be passed. We are one community, and we are disappointed that Bohra girls in some parts of the world are still expected to be cut. 

We maintain that khafz is a form of gender violence, an unnecessary ritual that has  left many Bohra girls and women with life-long psychological and physical scars. The World Health Organisation defines female genital cutting as ‘all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons’, and khafz clearly falls within that definition. Several conventions of the United Nations, including CEDAW, UNFPA, UNDP and Unicef have declared FGC to be a violation of human and child rights. Countries like India, even though they may not have a specific law against FGC, are signatories to these conventions.

We will continue our campaign to bring an end to this practice of khafz within the community. We urge our leader to engage with Bohra women who have been negatively impacted by this practice and pay heed to our voices.”

Discussing FGC During International Women’s Day event in Pune

On 23rd April, 2016, the University Women’s Association (UWA), along with the Poona Women’s Council, the Family Planning Association of India, Women’s Studies Center, ILS IMG_2785Law College, Pune Women’s Forum, Miloon Saryajani, Nari Samata Manch, General Practitioners Association, Sahiyo, Speak Out on FGM and Sassoon Hospital organised a program that aimed towards creating a dialogue amongst stakeholders on female genital cutting, also known as ‘khatna’ amongst the Dawoodi Bohra community. Hon’ble Smt. Pratibha Patilji, ex-President of India, inaugurated the program and chaired the discussions as the Chief Guest, while also

IMG_2783
Hon’ble Smt. Pratibha Patilji, ex-president of India, inaugurated the program and chaired the discussions as the Chief Guest.

giving a moving speech of her views on the subject.  This was the first-of-its-kind event in India, where the topic of ‘khatna’ – a closely guarded and dark secret – was discussed in an open public forum.  The intention behind the program was to generate a debate on the subject as this is a gross violation of child rights and is seen as a form of violence against women.

 

In light of International Women’s Day, it was also announced that UWA would initiate a yearlong programme on the awareness and eradication of this practice in the country. During the course of the programme, part of the plan was to have students of Social Studies/Law/ Medicine/Liberal Arts/Humanities etc. participate by writing on the issue of ‘khatna’ which falls under the World Health Organisation’s definition of Type 1 female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

At the programme, co-founders – Shaheeda Kirtane and Insia Dariwala – represented Sahiyo’s views and talked about their work on ending the practice of ‘khatna’ in India.

Shaheeda’s speech is presented below:

“Honorable Smt. Pratibha Patilji, Organizers of the event – the University Women’s Association, members on the dais and friends,

I am happy to be here today and to share the stage with this amazing audience who has taken a keen interest in a cause that is very dear to my heart.

Until very recently, “khatna” or female genital cutting was only mentioned in hushed whispers amongst women from the Dawoodi Bohra community. A few very brave women like my mother – Dilshad Tavawalla, Masooma Ranalvi and our Sahiyo co-founder, Aarefa Johari, shared their personal trauma about this “dark secret” with the world. It is the strength of their voices along with the recent convictions of three Dawoodi Bohras from Australia that has created a tidal wave of change, which allows me to be here today. Here – in the heart of Pune – a city of social reform and social reformers.

The world believes this violence against young girls to be an “African problem”. Many are blissfully unaware of its deep roots in India and Asia.

Thank you India and the women of India for taking up an issue that otherwise affects only a minority within a minority. It tells me that “khatna” has affected more than just Dawoodi Bohra women of India, and it is a sign of the times when all women of India are uniting for each other beyond economic, social, cultural and religious boundaries.

One can only imagine the trauma of female genital cutting on an innocent seven-year-old girl child. Sometimes, the skin over the clitoris is cut; sometimes, the entire clitoris is cut, and sometimes much, much more. They call this the “haram ki boti”. This, itself, should tell you a thing of two about its perception within the Dawoodi Bohra community.

The clitoris has 8,000 or more never endings, and it is THE MOST SENSITIVE part of the female body. The function of the entire penile shaft is performed by the clitoris, which is smaller than a peanut, but twice as sensitive as the penis.

To damage or to remove the clitoris or any part of the female sexual organ is to permanently suppress or deny a woman sexual pleasure.  It leaves an emotional scar and can adversely affect marital relationships and sexual life. Besides the possible physical consequences of “khatna”, like infections, excessive bleeding (particularly with botched procedures), burning sensation while urinating and swelling of the genital tissue, it is vital to note that the practice can have a negative impact on the mental health of a woman. According to the World Health Organization, long-term psychological effects of “khatna” include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic-stress-disorder, low-self-esteem etc.

Through the gathering today, I think we can make a difference in the lives of innocent little girls who are unknowingly waiting in line to be “under the knife”. I believe India is ready to save the Dawoodi Bohra girl child.

Sahiyo and Speak out on FGM have collaborated for the Each One Reach One campaign. We EORO_Poster1_Purple_Priyahave already made considerable strides in creating awareness of this great betrayal of trust and personal violation. At Sahiyo, through our “I am Bohra” photo-campaign, we have tried to put real faces behind all the voices of opposition against this gruesome and inhumane practice.

I am hoping that more of you will join us in our endeavor to stamp out the practice of “khatna”. Our individual efforts through social and news media outreach have achieved limited success, however, through the strength of our collective voices, I am positive that we will achieve our ultimate objective – a complete end to female genital cutting in India!

Thank you for your time and patience. I am honored to be invited here, and on behalf of Sahiyo, I invite you to join us in our efforts.”

Boston Jammaat Sends Letter Against Khatna/FGC to Members

On June 1st, 2016, Dawoodi Bohra members of the Boston Jammat (congregation) received a letter informing them that on May 31st, 2016, a resolution was passed against the practice of khafd or khatna (as FGC is known in the Dawoodi Bohra community). Below is one Jammat member’s response to receiving the letter. 

By Zehra Patwa

As a member of the Boston jamaat (congregation), I am happy to see this letter. The jamaat did the right thing to help parents find relief from the community and family pressure to get their daughters cut.

bohra sign copy
Zehra Patwa

However, it sows confusion for our friends and families in India, Pakistan and the Gulf because they feel they are being told to do khatna  (FGC) where there is no law to prevent it.

What we need is a worldwide standard for all Bohras. Given the many Bohra standards sent down from the Central Dawat, this issue can be handled the same way.
If you had a daughter in India, Pakistan or Dubai, would you still consider subjecting them to khatna if your sisters in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States are specifically told not to?
The answer should be no. We are all part of the same Bohra community. Let’s all have the same standards, as we always have.

Mariya’s experience at the Women Deliver 2016 Conference

By Mariya Taher

From March 16-19, 2016, I represented Sahiyo at the Women Deliver 2016 Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, having been invited by Orchid Project to speak at a side event they organized in conjunction with The Girl Generation.

The event was put together to allow panelists from practicing countries to share their personal experiences, and help to bring local activism on this issue to the global stage. One particular aim of the panel discussion was to highlight that FGC occurs in more parts of the world than previously acknowledged. I spoke on the nature and history of FGC occurring in the Dawoodi Bohra community both in India and amongst the diaspora communities of Dawoodi Bohras globally, including in the United States where I was born. Another speaker, Filzah Sumartono, a Singaporean youth activist from AWARE, spoke about the continuation of FGC amongst Malay populations in her county of Singapore, as well as the research attempts being made to learn more about how widespread FGC is in Singapore.

 

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that so much more attention was being given to the topic of FGC and how to end it overall at the Women Deliver 2016 Conference. Besides the side event in which Sahiyo participated, several more sessions were held to discuss the work currently being done on ending this form gender violence, as well as what future strategies are needed to achieve progress towards the U.N. Sustainable Development Global Goal target 5.3 which specifically addresses child marriage and FGC.

In fact, during the opening plenary of the conference, the Crown Princess Mary of Denmark addressed FGC in her speech, stating that when it comes to addressing issues such as child marriage or female genital cutting, “less bad is never good enough”.

On the conference’s opening day, the World Health Organization held an event in which they launched the release of the new World Health Organization guidelines for improving healthcare for those who have undergone female genital cutting. The recommendation of the new guidelines focus on prevention of FGC, and better supporting those who have been cut, including the urgent need to provide psychological and emotional support.

Additionally, at the conference, the Danish Government committed $10 million to AmplifyChange to fund work that aims to end FGC and Child Marriage.

It was wonderful to hear so much attention being given to this form of gender violence. Being in attendance reminded me again of the importance of having an NGO like Sahiyo represented at the conference, not only to voice the challenges of ending FGC within the Bohra community, but also to also collaborate with other government officials, NGOs and FGC activists to learn from each other and support one another in all the work that we do to end FGC globally.

On a personal level, the conference allowed me to strengthen my relationships with FGC activists and organizations who I had digitally known for years, connecting with them via e-mail or phone, but had yet to meet in person. Working to empower girls and women can be tough, lonely and draining at times. This is why finally meeting with these women, with all women and men who were working to end gender violence, was so uplifting and reassuring. 

Women Deliver offered an opportunity for individuals dedicated to the new Sustainable Development agenda to come together and re-energize and recommit themselves to the work that lies in front of them. And I was glad to know that ending FGC at the global level is now part of that conversation.

For related post, see Mariya Taher to represent Sahiyo at Women Deliver Conference

Sahiyo teams up with Breakthrough to shine a spotlight on stories from FGC survivors

Since the end of 2015, Sahiyo has been sharing the stories of both women and men who have negatively been affected by the practice of female genital cutting within the Dawoodi Bohra Community. Now, from June 2nd to  June 9th, Sahiyo and Breakthrough will be running a joint storytelling campaign to further shine a spotlight on the stories from survivors of female genital cutting from the Dawoodi Bohra community.Sahiyo-Farrah-2

As you know, Sahiyo is an organization dedicated to empowering Dawoodi Bohra and other Asian communities to end female genital cutting. Breakthrough is a global human rights organization that works to make violence against women and girls culturally unacceptable.

Sahiyo and Breakthrough are teaming up to show the connections between FGC and other forms of gender-based violence by exposing how rigid gender norms and ideas around female sexuality, and consent, amongst others, support and enable a culture where violence is normalized. Stories from survivors of FGC and their allies will live on Breakthrough’s digital storytelling platform, THE G WORD: Transforming gender norms, one story at a time. THE G WORD aims to illuminate and transform rigid gender norms by harnessing the power of personal stories like those Sahiyo has collected.

Please join us in sharing these stories by following Breakthrough and Sahiyo on Facebook. The campaign will run from June 2nd to June 9th and we’ll be sharing stories, graphics, and more information around FGC. Please share individual stories from those pages!

For more information and to view the stories, click on the Female Genital Cutting tag on Breakthrough’s digital storytelling platform.

To connect with Sahiyo, e-mail us at info@sahiyo.com.

 

A 17-year-old girl passes away due to circumcision in Egypt

Is circumcision really as harmless as it is made out to be?

1.06.2016

We woke up to a sad news yesterday as a 17-year-old girl, Mayar Mohammad, died of severe bleeding caused by circumcision surgery in Suez, Egypt.

The practice of female circumcision or any form of female genital cutting (FGC) has been banned in Egypt since 2007 and this procedure was carried out illegally on Mayar in a private hospital.

Earlier in Egypt, a doctor’s license was revoked for killing a 13-year-old who died of similar circumstances due to a circumcision surgery. Even then the practice continues to exist, shifting more and more towards medical professionals carrying out FGC illegally.

While many people quip about the differences between circumcision and female genital cutting, these instances are a reminder of what the procedure could also lead to. A poignant reminder that circumcision within the Dawoodi Bohra community, too, is seen as a cultural imperative and that these days the practice is increasingly shifting to gynecologists who belong to the Bohra community and who believe that there is no harm in carrying it out on young girls.

Often the practice of Khatna, Khafd  or Sunnat is brushed away, stating circumcision  (which also falls under the category of Type 1 FGC) to be incomparable with more severe forms of Female Genital Cutting commonly known to be practiced in Africa, although some African countries practice less severe forms too, depending on the ethnic tribe involved.

The community in Egypt is known to practice circumcision and not other severe forms of mutilation, but it is hard to say what must have been the extent of cut due to which Mayar lost her life. This also holds true with Khatna among the Dawoodi Bohras. Even though it is believed to be a small nick or cut, who can claim that the procedure might not lead to severe hemorrhaging? Or because of the child’s writhing one might cut off more than necessary by accident?

As Sahiyo, we feel extremely sad to hear about this development and want our audience to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Can one be absolutely certain that while Khatna is performed, more than the supposed required amount of skin doesn’t get cut off by design or by default?

  • Just because some communities have begun to medicalize the practice, does that mean khatna holds ground scientifically, particularly when the World Health Organization has come out against all form of FGC?

  • Is it okay to violate a girl’s rights to her body without her consent?

 

This incident raises many more questions and we hope our readers will continue the dialogue on these issues, either by posting a comment or writing to us at info@sahiyo.com.

 Meanwhile, In a moving facebook post Mayar’s friend went on to blame the mother.

“Mayar died due to ignorance and backwardness of her mother, who regarded her daughter as guilty only because she was created a female,” Rawan Al Jamal, classmate of the victim, mourned her in a Facebook post.

Whether the mother is to be blamed or the doctor or the system which has made the practice mandatory; sadly Mayar no longer is alive.

Read more about the incident here.  Also read Daily Mail report here