I am grateful I was able to talk to a therapist about my khatna

(First published on January 6, 2016)

by Anonymous

Age: 30

Country: United States

I was not more than seven years old when I recall going into a medical complex on a quiet Sunday afternoon accompanied by my mother and our family friend. My mother told me it was time for my “khatna” or circumcision. She explained it as a rite of passage, something all the little girls in our Dawoodi Bohra community had to do. I remember feeling scared but I didn’t know exactly why. I just had a feeling something terrible was about to happen to me as our friend unlocked the building with her keys and we continued into her desolate practice. We went into one of the brightly colored rooms where alphabet wallpaper boarded me in. I started crying before it even happened while she crooned, “all I’m going to do is remove a liiiitle piece of skin.” Totally exposed, I was asked to relax and read the wallpapered alphabet backwards. My mother helped hold me still while I was flat on my back and in hysterics. The snip which took maybe half a second was followed by a sharp-shooting pain that seemed to last in that moment, for eternity. I bled for three days and then it was over.

It wasn’t until I was nineteen, the end of my freshman year in college that I stumbled upon an article from one of my classes, describing the experience of a woman who had been a victim of FGM, or female genital mutilation. After reading the article once, I was immediately reminded of that Sunday afternoon twelve years prior. There was no way the same thing could have been done to me. My seven-year-old perspective of a little piece of skin being removed was analogous to that of a piece of skin from the top layer of the palm of a hand. My cousin used to stick a needle through that top layer and tell me it was magic that the needle was sticking there. She eventually revealed her secret and showed me the protective top layer that separated her hand from the skin. I guess like that layer, I always figured it would grow back. Still, the feeling of uncertainty drove me to call a couple of peers and academics in my community to ask whether our “khatna” was in fact, a partial removal of my clitoris. Their answer confirmed the worst of my fears. My next concern of “how much?” tormented me, and after a frantic visit to the school nurse, I got my answer: “There’s only a remnant left,” said the nurse practitioner who examined me.

***

I don’t believe my discovery was adequately addressed the first time as the rest of my college experience was consumed by bouts of grief, rage, frustration, insecurity, and depression. My feelings only grew stronger as I got older and had more encounters with the opposite sex. My overcompensating, defensive attitude permeated all aspects of my life—friends, family, work, and academics. It wasn’t until my mid-20s when I shared with my gynecologist during a routine visit what happened to me, that I was given three names of specialized therapists in the area with whom I could speak about my concerns. My insurance provider at the time would not cover therapy. Fortunately, one of three therapists agreed to see me for a discounted out-of-pocket fee because she was interested in my case.

To this day, I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to talk through what happened to me in a safe space as such resources and treatment were unavailable to me at home or in my community. I learned it was ok to talk about sex, explore my sexuality, and sexual feelings. I was even prescribed homework to assist me in doing so. At the time of the therapy, I had been sexually active and my partner, who was incredibly supportive, was also invited to participate in one of my sessions. When growing up, I never thought I would have sex before marriage. The idea behind the circumcision was to curb any sexual appetite I might have. Ironically, once I learned this had happened, I wanted nothing more than to have sex to see what my capabilities were. While I was incredibly nervous and insecure about having sex, I was more open to losing my virginity in the context of a serious relationship, which is how it happened for me.

One of my main insecurities about sex was that I felt like I was driving without the headlights on. Often times, I didn’t know where to go or how to guide my driver. I felt like a failure. To this day, I still have not experienced orgasm. While sex is enjoyable for me and I could describe what I can achieve as a “mini-climax”, I am bothered by the fact that I may never get to experience this wonderful part of life. While it’s no secret many women who have not been “circumcised” struggle with the same issues, a part of me will always wonder if that would have been true for me had this not happened. I will never know.

I was spared from khatna because my Dadi happened to pass away

by Anonymous

Age: 34

Country: India

I came to know about the practice when I was seven years old, but all I knew was that khatna means removing something from your body.

My two elder sisters have undergone khatna, but I was not cut. The reason for this is that my dadi (grandmother) passed away before it was my turn to be cut. My parents had got my sisters’ khatna done because of pressure from my dadi – otherwise they never wanted to perform khatna on any of their daughters.

I was in the 7th standard when I first discussed khatna with my mother. After coming from school, I told my mother about a class we had had on sex education, menstruation, puberty and bodily changes. My mom brought up khatna during this talk. She told me it is done to reduce sexual pleasure.

Innocently, I asked her, “Mummy, maru pan khatna thavanu chhe?” (Will khatna happen to me also?) She said no, and I was very happy then.

One of my sisters has a daughter, but she has decided she will not have khatna performed on her. I do not support this practice either. Such a tradition that harms women’s sexuality and rights should be stopped.

I don’t remember my khatna. But it feels like a violation

(First published on February 23, 2016)

Zehra Patwa

Age: 45

Country: United States

In 2014, I saw a video that changed my life.  My husband sat me down, told me that this was going to be upsetting and showed me a video.  It was a documentary from Australia featuring my cousin’s wife recounting her experience of being cut at the age of 7 in a dingy apartment in India by an old woman. Her telling of the story horrified me, which is the same reaction I have always had about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) but what threw me was the fact that this was a Bohra woman, like me.  She said this happens to all Bohra girls around the age of 7 and that it had happened to her sister, too.  For a moment, I refused to believe it but as she kept talking, I realized that it could have been done to me too.

I grew up in the UK and moved to the US in 1994.  I immediately recalled that summer trip to India at the tender age of 7 to attend my uncle’s wedding.  My mother had made me new dresses and I had matching hats and headpieces to go with them.  It was going to be so much fun.

What I couldn’t recall, though, was the actual khatna, but I have since received confirmation from my family that it was done to me. Even then, the reality did not sink in. How could I not remember it?  Maybe it wasn’t done to me after all, maybe it was all a ruse to “save face”.  What I’ve learned since is that some women erase the memory of the traumatic event completely and utterly.  Sometimes, it can be restored and other times it can’t.  I still haven’t accepted if it’s better to know or to not know.  Either way, it feels like a violation.

I cannot stand by quietly and let other girls in our Bohra community be subjected to this terrible practice.  I will not be silent. Even though I do not recall my personal khatna, I feel lasting psychological damage has been done just knowing that it happened to me. I can only imagine the physical and psychological damage done to those girls and women who, to this day, have vivid memories of it.

The Bohra jamaats in Sydney and Melbourne in Australia and, now, London in the UK have banned khatna (khafd).  Why do our sisters from all over the Bohra diaspora still have to suffer when our sisters in Australia and London are spared?  Are Bohra women valued more in some countries than others?  All Bohra women are subject to the same rules and edicts from Aqa Maula, why is this any different?

Khatna is illegal under Female Genital Mutilation laws in the US (18 U.S. Code § 116 – Female genital mutilation) but if khatna should not be done by some Bohras, shouldn’t it be extended to all Bohras regardless of the law in that country?  If you had a daughter in Dubai, would you still consider subjecting them to khatna if your sisters in Australia and the UK are specifically told not to?

I was cut, my daughter too, but it stops with my granddaughter

Age: 58

Country: India

I was 7 years old when my grandmother told me that she is taking me out. I was so happy and dressed up quickly, expecting to be given some goodies. Instead, I was taken to the house of a strange lady who frightened me when she pinned me down. And after that, what I remember is howling, crying, acute pain and everyone around pacifying me. The whole day passed with agony and I was afraid to pass urine because of the pain.

I kept on asking my mother and grandmother about what was done to me. The only answers I got: it was for my good and I would be fine soon.

However, as I grew up, I was enlightened about “Khatna” as an Islamic tradition, which was also performed on my younger brother. Later, when it was my daughter’s turn, I had to quietly go along with our religious tenets.

Now, my granddaughter is 6 years old, and for her I will not support the practice of khatna. Now I am convinced that female circumcision only results in agony and pain for a girl child, with none of the benefits it is claimed to have. Also, not all Muslim communities practice it.

Moreover, I am happy that NGOs like Sahiyo have brought this issue to the forefront and are getting worldwide support.

Why this Bohra father is guilty about his daughter’s Khatna

(First published on May 5, 2016)

Name: Yusuf

Country: India

The fatwa given during the Zikra majlis by Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin in favor of female genital cutting dug up the wound that exists in my heart which makes me write this post.

Looking at parts from the audio clip leaked from the majlis, at one point, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin says what translates to English as:

“It must be done. If it is a man, it can be done openly and if it is a woman it must be discreet. But the act must be done. Do you understand what I am saying? Let people say what they want.”

The Syedna made no direct mention of the word “khatna” or “khafz”, but asks that the act be done discreetly for girls so that the community does not get tangled in any legal trouble. He cryptically says, “Do you understand what I am saying?” It was a clear reference to female genital mutilation (FGM). It is obvious that this was in response to the raging debate on FGM that has occurred in public after three Bohras were convicted in Australia for practicing khatna on two minor girls. No one from the clergy has come forward to participate in this debate, and the Syedna in his fatwa said, “We are not willing to talk to anyone on this issue”.

The reason this issue dug up a wound in my heart is that a couple of years ago my daughter was made to undergo this barbaric ritual, against my wishes, under pressure from family elders and the ladies in particular.

A year before my daughter turned seven, my wife told me that when our daughter turns seven we have to do her khatna. Unlike most men in the community, I was aware of what khatna or FGM is and I told her that I will not allow this. I told her this practice was started centuries ago by Bohras who wanted to curb the sexual desire of their women, as they frequently travelled for business.

I told her that there is no scientific/medical basis for khatna or FGM. There is no mention of it in the Quran and that other Muslim sects do not practice it. I even told her that it is illegal in the western world and has been declared a violation of human rights by the United Nations.

What I also did was initiate a discussion within my close Bohra friends group. I raised the issue as to why a girl who doesn’t understand what is going on or what’s being done to her has to go through this, especially when the ones taking her for the cut are people she trusts.

One reply I received from a female friend in the group is etched in my memory. She said, “Would you want your daughter to have multiple sex partners and have extra marital affairs?”

I was taken aback by the reply, particularly as this friend is a well-educated person otherwise! It left me in despair on realizing the extent of falsehoods that have been propagated within the community, with people being brainwashed into believing something as barbaric as khatna, which has no scientific basis and is a violation of human rights. Forcibly doing something that is thought to curb sexual desire is in itself a violation of human rights. If educated young women of the community think in this manner, what to say of the elders who still dominate decision making in the majority of Bohra households?

My wife agreed with me and was reluctant to put our daughter through the horror. She told my mom and her mom that I was against the decision. She was told by both that there would be no argument and that this centuries-old practice has to continue just like how they went through it.

Being the only son, I live with my parents. My wife was torn between me on one side and my mother and her mother on the other. Talking to my parents did not help and ended with the usual invocation that it’s a “religious obligation”, Moula, tears, emotions etc.

My wife and I left the matter there hoping that when the time came, we could fake it. But, when my daughter turned seven, my mom said she would accompany us to take our daughter to get her khatna. She wouldn’t let us go alone. She made sure the appointment with a Bohra gynecologist (sigh!) was made.

My daughter was put under the blade. The fault is mine. Maybe I wasn’t strong enough or forceful enough then to prevent that atrocity on my daughter. But, now that there is a perfidious attitude where on one hand there is this fatwa in favor of the practice, while on the other hand, jamaats in Western countries have issued letters telling citizens to refrain from the practice, I thought it is time we men from the community spoke out against it. It is time for Bohra men to be informed about this evil practice and come out against it to save their daughters.

As it is well-known that the consequences of openly raising your voice against the Syedna has dire consequences, it is going to be difficult to get rid of this practice by mobilizing support from within the community. Some people may be against it, but they don’t say it openly.

In my opinion, building support in the larger civil society and legal recourse is the best way to end the practice. Maybe a public interest litigation (PIL) in India will get positive result. There is already a raging debate in India over triple talaq after a lady filed a PIL against it, and it has got larger public attention and support.

I commend the members of Sahiyo who are fighting against FGM. This post is my small contribution in support of their effort for a common good.

~ Written by Yusuf, a guilt-ridden and remorseful father belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community. 

Of tattoos, female circumcision and hypocrisy

by Azra Adenwala

Age: 21

Country: United States / India

I never truly thought about my khatna (circumcision) until a while ago when I came across the organization Sahiyo. To be honest, I had no idea what it meant in the first place. It was when I started reading articles by other women who had experienced khatna that I realized that I, too, was a victim of this gruesome practice. I had simply buried this memory deep for I could not fathom what it meant or where it stemmed from.

aden-tattoo

I was probably 5 or 6 years old. I was with my family on vacation – somewhere in Gujarat, as far as I can recall. I do not remember anything else from this trip, except certain painful bits and pieces. I remember being taken into a dingy bathroom, with a man or a woman in all white. I remember seeing scissors, and I remember seeing blood. I remember crying, as a bandage was applied to my genitals. I do not remember anyone telling me why or what had just happened to me. Everything seemed to go on as usual, as if nothing out of the blue occurred and I simply accepted this as it was for, I had no idea what had been done to my body.

I have not really been scarred due to my khatna and it has not altered my life in any way. However, what makes me cringe is the fact that this was my body, and no one had or has the right to make any changes to it, especially such unhealthy ones just because “it is how it is”.  

I remember, three years back, when I got my first tattoo. When one of my extended family members saw this tattoo on my body, they told me, “You are a Muslim, and our religion dictates that your body must be returned to its grave exactly how it came out from the mother’s womb”. In other words, we must not make any alterations to our body and accept it as it has been given to us by god. If this is the case, then why were my genitals mutilated? What sort of hypocrisy is this?

A religion cannot create rules based on what suits it. At some point, we need to realize the fact that it is us who have created religion in the first place. And we need to stop following rituals just because “tradition demands it”. We live in a modern society and we got to where we are right now because we embraced change. Female genital circumcision cannot dictate a woman’s faith in Islam. I find it extremely shallow, and I do not think anyone should be subjected to this practice, especially little children who have no idea what is happening to them.

I might not have been adversely affected, but there are a number of women out there who have. Every woman must have the right to her own body for there is no point in having faith in a god that apparently condones such a horrible and inhuman practice.

Announcing 16 Days of Activism with Sahiyo: Join the campaign!

Around the world, one out of every three women experiences some form of gender-based violence. And every year, the United Nations runs an international campaign to bring attention –and funds – to this universal cause. The campaign is called ’16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence’ and takes place between November 25 and December 10.

Why these two particular dates? Because November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and December 10 is marked as Human Rights Day. Every year, governments, UN agencies and civil society organisations utilise these 16 days to campaign for public awareness, action and fund-raising towards all forms of violence against women.

This year’s global theme is ‘Orange the World’, highlighting orange as a bright and optimistic colour to signal a future free of gender-based violence. Female Genital Cutting (FGC) is also a form of violence against women, and Sahiyo is excited to announce its own 16-day “orange” campaign to raise awareness about the issue. Read on to know what we will be doing, and how you can participate:

1) ‘STOP FGC’ badges:

If you feel strongly about bringing an end to Female Genital Cutting or Khatna, get hold of Sahiyo’s new ‘Stop FGC’ badge and pin it proudly on your Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram or Snapchat profiles. The message is simple, orange and eye-catching, and will serve as a great way to begin conversations about khatna with those around you during – and even after – the 16 Days of Activism.

Here is a downloadable version of the pin:

pin_1_wordpress

We also encourage you to pin these badges offline: simply print out the image above, cut around the orange circle and pin it on your shirt or bag! If you’re in Mumbai and can make it to Friday’s screening of A Pinch of Skin (see below), you could also request for a physical badge from the Sahiyo members present.

2) Screening + discussion of ‘A Pinch of Skin’:

On Day 1 of the 16 Days campaign, those in Mumbai can attend a screening of A Pinch of Skin – a National Award-winning 2013 documentary by Sahiyo co-founder Priya Goswami. This was the first film to highlight the practice of Female Genital Cutting in the Bohra community.

a-pinch-of-skin_poster2

The film will be screened at the two-day SAMABHAV film festival organised by Men Against Violence and Abuse, an NGO doing crucial work to sensitise boys and men about gender violence. And after the screening, don’t miss the opportunity to discuss FGC and the film with Sahiyo members!

WHAT: A Pinch of Skin, documentary by Priya Goswami
WHEN: November 25, Friday. 12.15 pm to 1.15 pm
WHERE: Dr. BMN College of Home Science (SNDT Matunga), Matunga Central (behind Maheshwari Udyan bus depot, near Aurora Talkies)
The screenings are open to all but don’t forget to register your name with  MAVA’s Project Coordinator Darshan by calling him on 0-9833733048

SAMABHAV is a film festival celebrating the rights of all genders, and the two-day event will include a host of other short films, features, and documentaries on the theme of Gender, Sexuality, Masculinity and Relationships. Check out the details here.

3) 16 Days, 16 Stories:

Sahiyo’s website, as many of you know, is a story-sharing platform for anyone who feels strongly about bringing the practice to an end. In the past year, we have shared scores of personal stories and narratives of women who have been circumcised, or whose loved ones have been cut; women who felt traumatised and violated, or those who didn’t, but still believe that there is no place for FGC in the world. We have also published heartfelt stories by Dawoodi Bohra fathers who don’t want their daughters cut anymore.

From November 25 to December 10, Sahiyo will publish 16 such personal stories – one story each day – to raise awareness and remind survivors that they are not alone. Some are new, while others are powerful stories that we published in the past.

Check out Sahiyo’s website, Facebook and Twitter to read and share these stories. And if you would like to submit your own story, mail us at info@sahiyo.com.

4) US Summit to End FGM/C:

From November 30 to December 1, Sahiyo co-founders Mariya Taher and Insia Dariwala will participate in the US Summit to End FGM/C in Washington DC. This unique conference has been organised by Equality Now, Safe Hands for Girls  and host of other organisations.

The Summit will bring together anti-FGC activists, survivors, religious leaders, government heads and other stakeholders from around the world, and discussions will have a special focus on strategies to bring an end to FGC among diaspora communities in the United States. Stay posted on Sahiyo’s social media for Summit updates from Mariya and Insia! There will also be a live-stream from the Summit itself, click here to tune into the conference!

 

Sahiyo Volunteer Spotlight: Chandni Shiyal

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, we would like to spotlight those volunteers who have made invaluable contributions to this organisation.

Chandni Shiyal, a Ph.D. scholar in Mumbai, has been involved with Sahiyo almost from its inception, as a committed field worker reaching out to Bohra women at the grassroots level. Read about her Sahiyo experience below, in her own words:

1) When did you first get involved with Sahiyo?img-20161026-wa0000

I first got involved with the organisation when Sahiyo was established. My involvement began when I came in contact with one of Sahiyo’s co-founders Aarefa Johari after I started pursuing my Ph.D. research focusing exclusively on FGC in India and Africa.

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

I have written a blog and also helped handle logistics during the first media workshop organised by Sahiyo. I have also been interviewing many Bohra friends and Bohra women regarding Khatna or FGC. By interviewing them I had the opportunity to have deliberate discussions with them and learn more about their perception and views on Khatna. I shared with them my own findings about the social, physical and psychological impact of this practice. A few of my interviewees reacted positively towards opposing FGC and said they would make sure that their daughters did not undergo Khatna though they themselves were subjected to this practice.

3) How has your involvement impacted your life?

I have been concerned about women’s issues and have always wanted to work and contribute to women’s causes. I was very impressed by the efforts of seventeen courageous women who openly signed a petition against Khatna, a sensitive issue that was never discussed on a larger scale in India and kept secret within the community itself. Being part of group discussions with co-founders of Sahiyo and volunteers across the world has built more confidence in me to stand up for women’s rights.

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

To achieve women’s equality is not just the responsibility of women but the responsibility of the entire community itself. There are various forms of violence like FGM, domestic violence, rape, etc. faced by millions of women each day across the world. Everyone should not remain silent but come forward to build a discrimination-free world, where every woman is respected and they have the right to live life according to their choice and decisions.

Short Bio:

Chandni Shiyal has completed her M.Phil. on the subject of Female Circumcision/Female Genital Mutilation in Africa: A Case Study of Ethiopia  from the Centre for African Studies, University of Mumbai. She recently published a book titled Female Circumcision/ Female Genital Mutilation: A Human Rights Violation A Case Study of Ethiopia. Ms. Shiyal is currently a Ph.D. student researching on Gender Inequality and Women’s Health: A Comparative Study of Ethiopia and India.

‘I begged my mother not to circumcise me. She listened to me.’

By Anonymous

Age: 26

Country: United States

I remember hearing about it for the first time in my Saturday school class. A male teacherfullsizerender-1 was taking our class that Saturday morning, and the topic was circumcision. At the ripe age of 14, I didn’t really know what that meant, but I did know it involved something that was related to sex-ed. I awkwardly sat with the girls in my class on the right side of the room, separated from the boys by a wide space, who sat on the left side of the room. The teacher began to speak about male circumcision; that skin was surgically removed from a boy for hygienic reasons. He then went on to explain female circumcision; that it was done to curb a girl’s sexual desire. Girls were meant to be chaste, quiet, and obedient. Circumcising little girls was the only way to keep them from being promiscuous. It was the only way to stop them from bringing shame to their families.

I remember sitting there, having no idea what my teacher was talking about. I was sure I had never undergone this procedure, or whatever my 14-year- old brain could comprehend from the Gujrati he was speaking – it was not my first language. I felt extremely uncomfortable and unsettled as I sat in that room that day.

I remember going to a sleep-over at an older girl’s house that same Saturday, where the topic inevitably turned to what we had heard at Saturday school earlier that day. I sat quietly as one girl, a bit of a know-it- all, explained why this procedure was done on girls, and how it made us better Muslims and better Bohris – because circumcision ensured that we would never be tempted by sexual desires and pre-marital sex; it cleaned us, purified us. I listened intently as other girls relayed their circumcision stories, all the while feeling like a fraud because I knew that I had never undergone this “rite of passage”. I know now that I still didn’t understand then, what this rite of passage truly meant. All it meant to me was that I didn’t fit in, that I was a “bad girl”, that I was dirty, and that I was just pretending to be a good Muslim.

I remember finally working up the courage to ask my mom about it a few weeks later. I watched awareness dawn in her eyes, as I relayed what we had learned in class. I saw the look on her face when I hopefully asked her if I had had this procedure done, and just didn’t remember. She shook her head. She had always meant to take me to get it done, when we were in India but had just never gotten around to it. I told her the stories I had heard from my friends and asked her if she could explain this procedure to me since I had had trouble understanding it in my class. She proceeded to explain the process of khatna to me; the removal of skin from a girl’s clitoris, to make her clean and pure. As I heard the explanation, I cringed. She watched me for a few minutes, and then stated with authority that next time we went to India she would take me to my aunt, a doctor, who would perform the procedure on me. I sank to my knees in front of her, begging her not to do this to me, begging her not to make me undergo what sounded like an unimaginably painful procedure. I promised her that I would be good, I would be clean, I would do anything she wanted if she would just forget this whole thing. She exhaled, saying “we’ll see” in a soft, resigned voice.

I remember getting older, doing more research on what khatna even meant, listening to my cousin passionately talk about how wrong it was, and realizing what a monumental loss my mother had spared me from. As an adult, I view the practice of khatna very differently than I did as an impressionable teenager. So many young girls have had this choice stolen from them.

No one has asked them if this is something that they want. Their families have decided to steal a part of who they are, without any regard for what it will do to them, and often times make the decision to bring their precious little girls to unsterile and inexperienced hands to do something so serious to their bodies.

I remember seeing a huge Facebook discussion break out months ago, where a very outspoken girl I know accused people who work to stop khatna of “airing the dirty laundry” of the Bohri community in such a public way. In that moment I had never felt so much shame at someone in my community. This practice is wrong, and the non-consensual nature of it makes it even more heartbreaking and deplorable, to me. When your community is doing something questionable, and touting it as a religious practice revered by the Prophet (PBUH), you don’t close ranks and hide deeper in the shadows. You open the floor to debate and discuss how we can become better as a community. You discuss how we can protect the young girls and young women of our community and give them the chance to make their own choices, rather than taking their choices away from them.

We can do better as a global community to stop this. My mother saved me. She put her love for me first, and I am the woman I am today because of her. I am forever grateful for her protection and guidance. All young women deserve the same protection, the same love, the same respect, and the same autonomy over their bodies. It’s the least we can do.

‘I deeply resented what was done to my most intimate parts without my permission’

Age: 64

Country: United States

It’s time to take a stand against Female Genital Mutilation. It’s long overdue. It wasn’t right when my mother went through it (I assume she did but I never asked her about it), it wasn’t right when I went through it and it wasn’t right when I put my daughter through it (under pressure from my parents).

I have a hazy recollection of the day the FGM was performed on me back in India. I was approximately six or seven years old. My brother, who was older than me, was sent away for the day to play at a friend’s house. A lady, who I’d never seen before, came over and I was taken to my parents’ bedroom where the FGM was performed.

I seem to have blocked the uncomfortable memory of that event and day – except for that image of the lady and my mom holding me down. I’m not sure what explanation was given to me about the reason why this had to be done. I remember deeply resenting what was done to the most intimate part of my body without my permission – akin to being violated. Most of all, I resent the fact that the person whom I trusted the most in life at that young age, allowed it to happen. Maybe, that is why, there is a part of me that cannot forgive my mom and I am amazed that my daughter has forgiven me for doing the exact same thing that I resented being done to me.

FGM is an insidious custom using the cloak of religion to appear correct. It’s only a matter of time when the untiring work of organizations like Sahiyo will stop this barbaric tradition rooted in a twisted interpretation of Islamic traditions. Till the Syedna denounces FGM, and puts his words into action, I will be ashamed to call myself a Dawoodi Bohra.

(Cover photo courtesy: ‘A Pinch of Skin’)