‘My mom regrets that she allowed khatna to be performed on me’

Age: 34

Country: USA

I was six years old when my mom explained to me that I had to undergo the procedure of khatna – that a small surgery would happen on my private parts. I simply understood that it was one of the many rituals that I, as a Muslim girl, would experience. So one night when my parents and I were at the markaz for an event, my mom took me with her to the back room storage area where a young woman introduced herself as a doctor. The cutting happened so quickly – I do not remember any pain. I do not remember being afraid. I was given a maxi pad to wear which felt awkward. And was then asked to go into the men’s section to tell my dad we were ready to go home.

While physically, I was not severely damaged, emotionally the experience of khatna has held a sobering cloud over my understanding of sexual health. The practice of khatna reinforced the idea that a woman’s sexuality is to be protected and hidden and not talked about. This is compounded by the policing of menstruating women – that we cannot touch the Qur’an or enter the Masjid while on our period. This all serves to define female genitalia as dirty things to be cut, cleaned or controlled.

It took me years to unlearn this internalised oppression and find a way to practice Islam in a way that allows me to feel empowered by my sexuality instead of ashamed of it. I am also grateful that my parents are part of this journey with me and are speaking out against the practice of khatna. I know my mom especially regrets that she caved to the pressure from her parents and allowed khatna to be performed on me. I wish I could take that burden of guilt away from her. I can only hope that as she sees me in a healthy relationship with my husband now, she knows that I am OK and that we can work together to ensure the practice of genital cutting ends with my generation.

Let’s Talk About “Sunat Perempuan”

on 2 FEBRUARY, 2016. Republished here with permission). 

Country: Singapore

Community: Malay

By Afiqa Ab Rahman

Recently I attended a workshop where participants from Singapore, Malaysia, India, and Thailand shared their experiences and discussed Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Variations of the term include Female Genital Cutting (FGC) or “Sunat Perempuan”.

It was intriguing to hear the experiences and research findings from various countries. But what intrigued me the most was to find that FGM was not considered a problem in some countries. The participants from Thailand, for example, shared that 100% of their women have been cut as it is seen as an identity marker of being Pattani Malay and nobody questioned it.

From speaking to women, the researcher from Malaysia offered some reasons that were given on why FGM is done. She explained that some mothers thought that it was an empowering choice for the mother to decide on her daughter’s circumcision because it wasn’t the father’s or any male family members who decided. A participant from India opposed this “empowering choice” concept. What I understood from her comment was that patriarchy was to blame for having women internalise FGM as “ideas of women” and think that the choices they make for their daughters are empowering. I couldn’t agree more.

In my opinion, what is empowering is accepting that your daughter has personal agency and that they can choose what to do (or not) to their bodies. What is empowering is also to have the courage to question the practice.

Personally, I had been cut as a child. In fact, all the women in my family have been cut. The doctor used a sharp knife to nick my clitoral hood. And in all honesty, if I hadn’t asked my mother whether I was circumcised, I wouldn’t have known. I thought my vulva showed no signs of circumcision. When I asked my mother why she had me circumcised, she explicitly stated that it was to “decrease my libido” –the very same reason why all the women in my family have gotten circumcised.

Let’s think about this – as a woman, and as a mother, does that sound right? Doesn’t nicking the clitoral hood, expose it to external stimulations? How would it “decrease the libido”? Isn’t it also very patronizing that the reason for circumcision is to prevent girls from “becoming promiscuous and going astray”? And if the purpose of circumcision is to decrease women’s libido, what is being done to decrease men’s libido?

I think what we should be doing is not just accept this practice without questioning. Why is “sunat perempuan” so shameful to discuss and deemed a taboo? I think it’s about time people are open to discussing this so as to decide whether it’s really beneficial and necessary. This could save people a lot of money (from not having to pay for the procedure). And in some countries, it could save many lives too.

Conversations on khatna and social norms with Mumbai community workers

On October 6, Sahiyo co-founders Insia Dariwala and Aarefa Johari were given an opportunity to introduce the topic of Female Genital Cutting to a host of grassroots social workers in Mumbai. This opportunity came through an invitation from the Justice and Peace Commission, one of many organisations run by the Catholic Church in Mumbai to work with local communities across religious lines. The Commission runs community centres across the city, but the session that Sahiyo conducted with more than 20 social workers was held at JPC’s headquarters at St. Pius College.

Most of the participants in the session were grassroots activists working in their respective communities and neighbourhoods on a range of issues, particularly women and children’s rights. The topic of FGC or khatna was new to many of them, and they were keenly interested in Sahiyo’s introduction to the issue, the explanation of the reasons cited for practicing khatna and how FGC is essentially a social norm like so many others.

Participants were then encouraged to discuss various social norms in their own cultures and how they could possibly be combatted. This was an enthusiastic and very involved audience, and the topic of social norms led to very lively discussions. Predictably, the women grew more lively while talking about menstrual taboos and one woman shared a heartening story of how her young daughter changed the norm in their home by refusing to follow her grandmother’s menstrual restrictions.

Most of the participants were women, but the few men in the audience spoke of the pressures to be ‘masculine’ as a social norm. One of the activists talked about how she makes both boys and girls at her NGO do household chores, even though the boys are not expected to do the sweeping or cleaning at in their own homes.

After the talk, several participants expressed an interest in discussing FGC with their own Bohra friends. We sincerely thank the Justice and Peace Commission for giving us this opportunity.

A Kenyan Woman’s Take on FGM/FGC in the Bohra Community

By Zarina Patel

Country of Residence: Kenya    

Age: 81 years

I only very recently heard a fleeting mention of FGM being practiced in the Bohra Community in my country, Kenya. It was in a group conversation where I was adamantly protesting against the FGM still being inflicted on Kenyan women in spite of it being an illegal procedure in Kenyan law since 2011.

It was my first time to hear the word ‘khatna’. Though I am a Bohra thankfully my late parents did not subject me to it. And so hush-hush is this ritual that my subsequent enquiries bore no fruit. But in the process, I came across SAHIYO – a windfall.

FGM or FGC, extensive or minimal, is today recognized by the United Nations as a human rights violation and is one of many manifestations of gender inequality. To drag an innocent young girl child into a dark room and forcefully inflict this wound on her body; subject her to excruciating pain and most probably tell her never to speak about it as if she has committed a crime – surely this is unacceptable by any standard of human behaviour. I think any caring and ethical person will agree that it is a violation.

I am interested in looking at some of the more analytical aspects of FGM in our community.

First of all, I cannot help wondering why male circumcision is an event celebrated with much feasting and publicity, while its female equivalent is often done so secretively and in such isolation. The only reason I can think of is that those who perform, or arrange for, this latter act know that it is both criminal and unjustifiable and that no young girl would agree to it if asked.

Male circumcision is performed to remove the foreskin of the male organ and in this day of HIV infections male circumcision has proved to be highly beneficial; even men in our Luo community (which is often referred to as the community of the uncircumcised) are embarking on it. The World Health Organization states ‘compelling evidence’ in support of this. There are no proven health benefits for FGC.

Often, female circumcision is performed to reduce, if not eliminate the sexual ‘urge’. There are those who claim the opposite – that FGM enhances sexual pleasure because you are exposing the clitoris even more so, but this assertion cannot stand up to scientific reasoning. Can there be a better example of patriarchal domination and discrimination? And please note, the clitoris is one of the centres of sexual pleasure, NOT the urge which precedes the act. The urge is the result of the hormones racing through our bodies which the Almighty created.

I would earnestly request my sisters, and the concerned menfolk, to give some serious thought to the practice of FGM/FGC and not to blindly follow some religious or traditional edict. After all, even in Islam directives made some 1400 years ago are being reviewed: Examples are the attainment of talak (divorce) by just three utterances (by the husband of course!) being made unlawful and the conditions for marrying  four wives being made almost impossible to fulfil.

And lastly do keep in mind that the practice of FGM is much older than Islam, it was already prevalent in the time of the Prophet Abraham. And it is not only Muslims who practice it; several one-time animist and now largely Christian ethnic communities also inflict this violation on their women. FGM is practiced in 30 countries in the world. One of the major propaganda tools used by our founding Kenyan president, Jomo Kenyatta, in his struggle against British colonialism was to urge his people to resist the order of the white Christian missionaries and the colonial officers for the banning of female circumcision. In those historical times the order was viewed as a form of cultural imperialism.

In one of the videos available on the SAHIYO site, a woman who performs this vile act claims, when asked the purpose of this procedure, that it promotes moral behaviour. She actually states that the Bohra community has a much lower incidence of extra marital sex and adultery by women compared to other communities in India. Really? Has she carried out a survey, done the required research on this topic? Has anyone for that matter? It would certainly be a very interesting study but almost impossible in my reckoning – which woman is going to admit to a researcher (or anyone) that she is sexually ‘free’?

I do hope that we are well past the age of just believing when we now have the educational tools to analyse issues and understand the processes. Is it not Islam of all religions that urges its followers to search for enlightenment even if it means travelling to the ends of the earth?

 

 

What can Bohras learn from a new report on the global status of female genital cutting?

by Aarefa Johari

This August, the Population Council and UK Aid published a unique, comprehensive report on Female Genital Cutting around the world, to serve as a valuable resource for anyone working to bring the practice to an end. Titled ‘A State-of-the-Art Synthesis on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting – What do we know now’, the report provides a zoomed-out analysis of all the recent available data on FGC from the 29 countries that have done national surveys on the subject. Although India does not feature in this list, the report offers plenty of food for thought for those of us in South Asia in general and the Dawoodi Bohra community in particular.

In hospitals or in homes?

The 29 countries studied in the Population Council report are all from Africa, except for Yemen and Iraq. But the report also acknowledges the prevalence of the practice in other countries like India, Pakistan, Oman, Malaysia, Iran and Colombia, where no national surveys have been done yet. Indonesia, where the widespread prevalence of FGC has only recently been given official recognition, has been featured prominently in the report.

Types I and II are the most common forms of FGC around the world, and in the 29 countries studied in the report, it was found that the cutting is still overwhelmingly performed by traditional cutters. In the Bohra context, we do not know if that still holds true.

We know for sure that in India, in big cities like Mumbai, nearly all Bohras who still choose to get their daughters cut end up going to Bohra-run hospitals or clinics. Based on anecdotal information, we also know that Bohras in smaller towns are increasingly choosing to have it done by a local doctor. For instance, one woman from a Bohra housing colony in Jamnagar told a Sahiyo founder that khatna for girls is now performed in clinics because with the traditional untrained cutters, there had been many instances of “cases going wrong”.

This is disturbing for two reasons: One, khatna is now increasingly getting medicalised among Bohras, creating the entirely false impression that it is a medically sanctioned and beneficial practice. In truth, khatna has no proven health benefits at all. And two, we cannot help but think of the girls behind the many “cases that went wrong”. The word “case” is a medicalised euphemism for an actual girl, now probably a grown woman, who must have been cut more than intended, who might still be experiencing physical, psychological and/or sexual trauma that has probably never been addressed, because we are taught to be silent about these matters and because our country does not have adequate mental health resources to help those in need.

How many such “cases gone wrong” have we had in the Bohra community? No one knows, because for centuries, the voices of those girls and women have been silenced. Supporters of khatna often claim that only a “small number” of Bohra women have suffered negative consequences. But if just one town in Gujarat has seen “many” cases that went wrong, perhaps it is time to drop our defenses, create a positive space for all women to share their stories, and truly listen to their voices.

Why is khatna practiced anyway?  

The Population Council report also makes an interesting point about the reasons different communities give for practicing FGC. Across cultures, there are a variety of reasons given, which can be broadly classified into certain basic themes: marriageability, chastity, social status, religious identity, transitioning into womanhood, maintenance of family honour, beauty and hygiene. But unlike popular belief, the reasons given by a particular culture or community do not remain static “as with other social norms or practices, they are dynamic and subject to change and influence over time”.

This rings true for Dawoodi Bohras around the world, where the reasons given for practicing khatna can change from one family to another. Two of the most commonly cited reasons are “it is in the religion” and “it moderates sexual urges and prevents promiscuity”. “Cleanliness and hygiene” is cited far less frequently, even though it is the “official” reason as per the Bohra religious text Daim al-Islam. This is most likely because khatna is carried out secretly, Bohra religious leaders have never publicly discussed or advocated for the practice and women have typically passed down the reasons for it as an oral tradition within their families.

And some Bohras are now rationalising khatna in ways that their grandmothers probably did not – some compare it to male circumcision and claim that it prevents urinary infections and/or sexually transmitted diseases; others have started equating it with the medical procedure of clitoral unhooding and claim that the removal of the hood enhances sexual pleasure.

This just goes to show that it really doesn’t matter what religious texts like Daim al-Islam or the Sahifo may say about khatna for girls. Most community members don’t seem to even be aware of what these texts say, and they have been cutting their girls for entirely different reasons. One of my own aunts once told me that girls who are not cut will turn into prostitutes – a preposterous idea that she not only believes in, but also attributes to the Prophet! The sad truth is, her daughter was cut for this reason – to prevent her from becoming a prostitute – and not for any “official” reason. Similarly, other girls are being cut to keep them chaste, and I was cut for no reason at all, because my mother just didn’t think of questioning the practice.

Hope for the future

The Population Council report also points out that FGC often continues within a community because the individual preferences of girls or even their mothers are “often superseded by those of elder women in the family”. Among Bohras, we keep hearing from scores of women who have experienced the same dilemma: they didn’t want to have their seven-year-old daughters cut, but eventually had to cave in to pressure from their own mothers or mothers-in-law. Many Bohra women are currently facing the same problem and are unsure of what to do.

The most promising fact emerging from the report, however, is that in several FGC-practicing countries, the majority of already-circumcised women are now opposed to the practice or are unsure of whether to continue it. The graphs are similar for men in many FGC-practicing countries – the majority of these men do not support the continuation of the practice.  

And we know for sure that this is very true for the Bohras all over the world. In the past year itself, the number of Bohra women and men speaking out about khatna, and asserting that they will not cut their children, has exploded. Some have spoken out openly, but many more are reaching out to us privately, on a regular basis, to offer their support to this unprecedented movement.

Sahiyo’s online survey of Dawoodi Bohra women – which you will be hearing more about in the coming months – also revealed a positive trend in women wanting khatna to stop:

chart

So we can be sure that a generation from now, we will be a lot closer to building an FGC-free world than we were ever before!

Sahiyo Volunteer Spotlight: Mariya Ali

 

Sahiyo is an organization with the mission to empower Asian communities to end female genital cutting through community collaboration, and this work could not be done without dedicated volunteers supporting us. To show our appreciation, Sahiyo would like to begin spotlighting those volunteers who have made invaluable contributions to our organization.

Mariya Ali is a U.K. based volunteer who has been with Sahiyo for over a year now. She is a mariyaaliproficient writer and has a fine eye for detail. To learn more about how she has supported our work, read her interview below.

1) When did you first get involved with Sahiyo?

I first got involved with Sahiyo in July 2015. A friend of mine spotted an article that I wrote on FGC and connected me with her cousin, who is a co-founder of Sahiyo.

2) What opportunities have you been involved with at Sahiyo?

I contribute to the putting together of the Sahiyo newsletter and I have written some articles that have been posted on the Sahiyo blog. I have also had the pleasure to meet other people who have the same passion as I do to end this practice.

3) How has your involvement impacted your life?

For many years I couldn’t really connect with anyone about what had happened to me – it was an unspoken event and a memory that I wasn’t able to understand. I’ve found a network of people who are supportive and understanding and we all have a common goal. I’ve found a forum where I can ask questions. I also feel like I am finally part of something that is making an impact and part of a collective voice that is finally being heard.

Working with Sahiyo has given me a deep sense of contentment. The pinnacle for me was when a friend of mine, who is a mother of two young girls, told me that through reading the articles that I shared, she had decided not to perform FGC on her daughters. Something as simple as sharing a post can have a significant impact.

4) What pieces of wisdom would you share with new volunteers or community members who are interested in supporting Sahiyo?

Don’t be afraid of speaking up. You may think that your voice is a whisper, but many voices together make a roar. Even if it is in your own home, break the taboo. This is not a private, personal issue; This is a violation of human rights.

 

‘All FGM causes trauma and pain’: A great video speaking of FGM/C as a collective struggle.

This video encapsulates the trauma and pain of undergoing the practice, giving voice to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting as a collective, shared memory and struggle for the women affected by it.

It features women who have undergone the cut in different places of the world and at different ages, but who all have had the same underlining story to tell.

allfgm-1
It is is important to realize that all FGM causes trauma and pain.

As these women, who are now FGM activist and researchers, speak:

‘The reason I was given was controlling my sexuality’.  ‘Being submissive to men’, another woman adds.

reasonis-power
‘The underlining reason for practicing FGM in all communities is power, supremacy of men; perpetuated by a social norm. ‘

As Solomon Zewolde explains, the underlining thought behind practicing FGM/C in all parts of the world including in the Dawoodi Bohra community is for sexual control of women. This is further perpetuated as a non-negotiable social norm in different societies.

Girls have been made “right” by the cut, one woman chimes in. 

This video makes a great case of understanding FGM/C from the point of view of someone who has undergone it and establishes the practices not just as an “African problem”, but a global issue.

map-of-areas-affected_as-screen-grab

And as  Dr. Momoh suggests ‘FGM doesn’t discriminate. It predates Islamic religion, it is not in Quran, it is not in the Hadith and it is not in the Bible as well.’ 

fgm-does-not-discriminate

An activist, Sarian Kamara, says in the video about her own experience of FGM, ‘ a part of being happy is being taken away. So I feel more than mutilated. But not all women feel that way’

It is important to recognize all forms of FGM/C as gender-based violence.  And it is equally important to acknowledge and support subjectivity of experiences- from severe trauma to no trauma or implications due to extent of the cut and other factors; as we acknowledge the common ground of the practice perpetuating as a social norm.

The video concludes on the note of change, ‘change has begun. We have got the world watching’. 

Do watch the video and share your thoughts with us at info@sahiyo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Sahyog gave Sahiyo an opportunity to engage with young students

by Aarefa Johari

On September 3, Sahiyo’s Mumbai team was invited to give a talk to college students enrolled in the Pehchaan programme run by Sahyog, a reputed non-profit organisation providing support to women and children from marginalised communities. Sahyog’s ‘Pehchaan’ initiative offers skills-training and mentorship programmes to students from low-income families at the PN Doshi College for Women. Every few weeks, as a part of Pehchaan, Sahyog invites guest speakers to conduct guest sessions about breakthroughs in their fields of work, and about issues related to identity, gender, women’s rights, character strengths and leadership.

At the event on September 3, my colleague Shaheeda Tavawalla-Kirtane and I conducted a two-hour session with around 100 first- and second-year Home Science students of PN Doshi College. The subject of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) was new to almost all the students, and they participated with great interest and enthusiasm in discussions on various aspects of the topic.

While talking about the female genital anatomy to explain what Bohras typically cut during circumcision, we realised that most of the girls had never heard of the clitoris, and were not taught about its existence in their Home Science anatomy classes. This led to a lively discussion on sexuality and female sexual pleasure.

sahyog-event-2
Sahiyo co-founder Shaheeda speaking to students of Sahyog’s Pehchaan programme.

We also spoke about the journey of Sahiyo, its founders and the phenomenal development of a vibrant movement working to end FGC in the community. We also discussed the obstacles we’ve faced and our efforts to overcome them, encouraging the students to similarly take up issues they feel strongly about in their own contexts and communities.

Most significantly, we talked about how the practice of FGC is a social norm much like many other norms prevalent in all our cultures. The students spontaneously related this to norms that repress women in their own worlds — and most prominent among them were menstrual taboos. The girls spoke about how many of them are not allowed to pray, visit religious sites or even enter the kitchen during their periods, and how superstitions about not touching pickle jars still abound. Among other norms, the students discussed the illogical belief in some of their homes about not cutting hair or nails on certain days, and how, even today, the women of some families don’t eat until the men have eaten first.

For us, it was overwhelming to see how, towards the end of the session, so many students expressed enthusiasm to create small movements against these norms in their own ways. We hope to be able to help them in any way we can!

Finally, we are immensely thankful to Beena Choksi and Megha Dharnidharka of Sahyog, for giving us an opportunity to engage with so many young, bright minds.

Talking about Gender Justice at the Islamic Society of North America Annual Conference

On Sunday September 4th, Sahiyo’s cofounder, Mariya Taher, participated on a panel entitled, “Gender Justice: A Discussion with Policymakers, Religious Actors, and Activists” at the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

crijztmvmaapvgu-jpg-large

The Secretary’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of State partnered with Muslim community leaders and organizations to promote gender justice in issues ranging from calls for greater inclusion of women of faith in peacebuilding to advocating against gender-based violence, including female genital cutting. The panel brought together a diverse set of religious actors, policymakers, and civil society activists to address promoting gender justice within Muslim communities, both domestically and globally. The panel was moderated by Arsalan Suleman and the speakers included Maryum Saifee, Hind Makki, Mariya Taher, Reyhana Patel.

Both Mariya and Reyhana addressed the topic of FGC and how their organizations are crimz2fvyaa0hof-jpg-largeworking towards shedding light on this form of gender violence, often misperceived as a practice rooted in religion. Mariya discussed Sahiyo’s storytelling platform that has crowdsourced testimonials from members of the Dawoodi Bohra community on FGC. Rehyana, from Islamic Relief Canada discussed her report on FGC in Indonesia. The panel also addressed the powerful work of women religious leaders in peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance.

To learn about the “Gender Justice” panel, read more here on the U.S. Department of State Official Blog in a write-up by Maryum Saifee.

And as Maryum writes:

Panel discussions like the one at ISNA are important platforms. They highlight both the structural challenges and limitations Muslim women continue to face, but also show how they are on the frontlines promoting gender justice in their communities.

To view a video of the panel discussion, click here.

‘I am not traumatized or damaged, but I still want Khatna to stop’

By Anonymous

Age: 30

Country: United States

For the record, I have never been mutilated. I am not traumatized, damaged, or broken. Yes, something unfortunate happened to me that I wish had not; but I do not want to be labeled a survivor. Personally, I feel the word is inappropriate to my situation because my life was never at risk. What I do want is to live in a world where what happened to me no longer happens to others. The reason I want this is because although I have come to forgive my loved ones, accept what has happened to me, and move past the trauma, not everyone who has undergone khatna has been so fortunate.

Like countless other females raised in the Dawoodi Bohra community, I underwent female genital cutting (FGC) as a young, unsuspecting child. My recollection of the event is foggy, but I do remember lying half naked on the examination table in a pediatrician’s office. I also remember an unpleasant sensation accompanied by a scream and then a calm, comforting voice explaining that what I had just felt was only cold antiseptic. I cannot recall the exact moment I was cut; I  assume the pain caused me to purge it from memory. However, I do remember the aftermath.  I remember feeling confused and slightly elated at having to wear a menstrual pad like my big sister. Not because I had reached the milestone of menstruation (that would not happen for another 4 years), but to avoid dark red stains on my underwear as the cut healed. I remember a party a few days later; my markaz friends came over for a mithi sitabi. We played games like Twister, Monopoly, and Operation – not standard mithi sitabi activities. I’m sure prayer was involved, but I don’t remember it. All I can recall is how much fun that day was.

Somewhere along the way, I was left with the notion that what had happened to me, happened to all girls, Bohra or not. As I sit here and reflect, I think I have a reasonable explanation for this. The procedure itself occurred in a medical setting. My parents remained cool and calm throughout the entire event. At the mithi sitabi, I was the youngest; the last girl of the group to undergo the procedure. It all felt so normal. No one needed to tell me that this happened to all girls; I arrived at the conclusion myself. The normalization of this event enabled me to quickly forget about it and continue on with the business of growing up – that is until I reached high school and formally learned about female genital mutilation (FGM) in Africa while sitting in a health class.

That day in class, as I listened to my teacher speak about FGM, I began to feel queasy. How could this happen to women in Africa? My heart ached for them. After school that day I used the internet to learn more about the practice. At the time, I didn’t recognize why this topic peaked my interest. In my mind, these women lived a world apart from me. We had nothing in common, so I initially thought. I don’t know if it happened that night – it could have been days later – but I eventually arrived at the realization that what had happened to me when I was seven years old was NOT something that happened to all girls. In fact it was considered a violation of human rights. 

I confronted  my mother about it. I showed her documentation confirming that what had shidabeen done to me was considered a form of FGM. In an accusatory tone I asked her why she did this to me. Her response was straightforward and simple: hygienic purposes. I pressed her further but all I got was “apna ma karvanu che” , our people must do it. At some point I asked her if she enjoyed sex; she told me she did. Although I was still upset, her response brought me some relief.

During college, I visited a gynecologist and informed her about my experience. With the knowledge in hand, she examined my genitalia. Much to my relief, she was unable to discern any physical evidence of the cut. After college, I visited another gynecologist and she too was unable to detect a physical abnormality. 

I grew up in a traditional Dawoodi Bohra family and I underwent khatna. Much to my community’s dismay, neither circumstance prevented me from engaging in premarital sex. Because I have no previous comparison, I cannot say with 100% certainty that it is because of khatna, I am unable orgasm from clitoral stimulation. However, if I had to put money on it, I would. I may look normal down there physically, but from personal experience, I’ve discovered that my clitoris is not a sex organ like it should be. In fact for me, clitoral stimulation leads to pain, not pleasure. Medically, this is known as allodynia –pain due to stimulus that does not usually provoke pain. My guess is that although undetectable to the human eye, my clitoris underwent nerve damage when I was seven years old. All because, apna ma karvanu che.

I don’t want others to read this and feel sorry for me. I have come to terms with what happened to me and I have moved passed it. Sympathy is not what I am asking for. What I am asking is that this practice stop. That is why I am sharing my story. I want future generations to be spared.