81% want Khatna to end: results of Sahiyo’s online survey of Bohra women

On the occasion of International Zero Tolerance Day for Female Genital Cutting, Sahiyo is proud to present the complete findings of the first large-scale, global research study on the subject of Khatna as practiced by Dawoodi Bohras.

The report of the study, titled ‘Understanding Female Genital Cutting in the Dawoodi Bohra Community: An Exploratory Survey’, was officially released at a press conference in Mumbai on the morning of February 6, 2017. The report contains the full results and analysis of a detailed online survey of 385 Dawoodi Bohra women from around the world. This survey was conducted over a period of six months from July 2015 to January 2016.


What did the Sahiyo survey find?

We encourage you to read the full report to understand the methodology used in the survey, the complete statistics and findings, the analysis of the data and the stories of women who provided personal accounts of their experience. However, here are some key findings at a quick glance:



  • 385 Dawoodi Bohra women participated
  • Majority from India and USA
  • 67% between 18-25 years old
  • 76% married
  • 80% women working or running a business from home

Experience of Khatna:

80% survey participants had been subjected to Khatna as children. Out of those women,


  • 66% were 6 or 7 years old when they were cut
  • 74% were cut by an untrained traditional cutter
  • 15% were cut by a health professional
  • 65% were not sure about which part of their genitals was cut

Impact of Khatna:


  • 51% of those who were cut felt fear immediately after Khatna
  • 21% of those who were cut felt anger
  • 98% of those who were cut described experiencing pain immediately after the Khatna.
  • 35% of those who were cut claimed that Khatna affected their sexual life. Out of those women, 87% said Khatna had a negative impact on their sexual life.

Reasons given for Khatna:

Survey participants had heard of multiple different reasons for why Khatna is practiced in the Dawoodi Bohra community. The most common reasons were:


  • For religious purposes – 56%
  • To decrease sexual arousal – 45%
  • To maintain traditions and customs – 42%
  • For physical hygiene and cleanliness – 27%

Hope for the future:

Perhaps the most important finding of the Sahiyo survey is that a huge majority of the participants do not want the practice of Khatna to continue.



  • 82% said they are unlikely or extremely unlikely to continue Khatna on their daughter


  • 81% said they are not okay with Khatna continuing in the community

This indicates an opportunity for the prevalence of Khatna to reduce among Dawoodi Bohras a generation from now.

Why is Sahiyo’s Khatna Survey significant?

Because there has been almost no research on Khatna among Bohras before this.

Female Genital Cutting (known as Khatna or female circumcision in the Bohra community) is recognised as a form of violence against women and children. It is illegal in many countries, has no mention in the Quran and is in fact considered un-Islamic by many Islamic scholars.

Dawoodi Bohras have been practicing Khatna as a secretive ritual for centuries, and the silence around the practice has broken only recently, in the past four or five years. Even though many women from the community are now speaking out about their personal experiences of Khatna and pushing for an end to the practice, there has been little to no scientific research on the subject.

Without research and representative data, it is difficult to determine the degree of prevalence of Khatna and to understand the complex social norms and cultural value systems that shape the practice of Khatna within the community. The lack of research also makes it difficult to pass legislation and policies, and to design outreach and education programmes to push for an end to the practice. As the first large-scale research study on FGC among Bohras, Sahiyo’s Khatna Survey aims to fill this gap in knowledge and data.

The Sahiyo online survey is a preliminary and exploratory study of Khatna. The survey results point to the need for much more in-depth field research, both qualitative and quantitative, on the practice of Khatna among Bohras. In the future, surveys of Bohra men’s attitudes towards Khatna are also needed. We hope that this pioneering survey becomes a base for future research on Khatna.

(Conducting large-scale scientific research on FGC requires funding and other resources, which are currently lacking in India and other Asian countries where FGC is practiced but not widely known. To encourage the United Nations and other international agencies to invest more towards research and advocacy to end FGC in Asia, please sign and share this Change.org petition by Sahiyo and 32 other global organisations!)

(If you are a media professional interested in covering Sahiyo’s survey or other aspects of Khatna among Dawoodi Bohras, do read Sahiyo’s detailed Media Resource Guide on how to sensitively report on Khatna – we created it especially for you!) 


7 thoughts on “81% want Khatna to end: results of Sahiyo’s online survey of Bohra women

  1. Zainab Kurbanhussein Karolia

    Commend you for the work done in highlighting this issue.
    To understand some logical reasons we need to learn the logic of male circumcision ,although a separate issue and procedure ,ultimately there are key similarities between them one important being the accumulation of substance known scientifically as smegma under the foreskin of both men and women ,this is a culture of bacteria which is composed of dead skin cells ,traces of dried urine etc and which forms gradually over time is known to cause various diseases and contributes to genital odour in both sexes.In theory many say this is a simple issue of genital hygiene in practice it is more difficult to achieve as many don’t know the correct method, have themselves never been taught as children being a taboo topic as it is , can’t be bothered, are ignorant or take action only when symptoms appear. As male circumcumsion is universally accepted smegma also popularly called genital gunk does not have a place to form thus ensuring a maintenance free organ with a lifetime warranty . For women smegma related issues are one of the reasons for visits to gynaecological clinics .In our particular cultural context accumulation of genital gunk is unacceptable both physically and for ritual hygiene (napak/najis).According to your survey as majority of our women are circumcised they will have not seen this on their genitals and had adverse issues with this matter as reduction of the clitoral hood (prepuce) eliminates his formation .If some of us follow your advice and stop the procedure what genital hygiene techniques will we teach to our daughters as the mothers have not themselves experienced the issue ? Simply splashing water will not remove this as it much more elaborate. Many have also said what are the medical reasons for the procedure true by itself here are no medical reasons but indirectly as mentioned above there are .It will be a matter of time before scientists confirm that reducing the clitoral hood has some benefits just as they’ve done for males. Some have twisted the argument to portray this as a means of ‘controlling’ and subjugating women. Yours will be a pyrrhic victory you have won the ‘human rights’ argument but lost on another overlooked but none the less important aspect .


    1. Dear Zainab,

      Thank your comment. I have provided some information below about FGC and Male Circumcision. There are NO proven health benefits of female circumcision. Additionally, the World Health Organization and other health organizations have now shown that the only proven benefit of male circumcision is related to male circumcision being a practice that can be a preventative treatment, but it is only recommended as a form of treatment in countries where there is a high HIV prevalence. This is really the only substantially proven benefit of Male Circumcision. However, while looking at the health effects of these procedures is important, it is also important to recognize that FGC is a form gender violence. There are many reasons why this should not continue.
      Some Dawoodi Bohras perceive the cutting of the clitoral hood to be the female equivalent of removal of the male foreskin. Among Dawoodi Bohras, both are performed at an age when children are not old enough to give consent for it – approx. age 6 to 9 for girls and infancy for boys.

      The underlying ideology behind the two practices also differs. Until 2016, the Dawoodi Bohra religious leadership did not publicly explain why khatna is mandatory for girls in the community. In 2016, the religious clergy has claimed that FGC is done for hygiene purposes. There are no medical studies substantiating this claim. Also most community members, on the contrary, believe that the ritual is meant to moderate a woman’s sexual urges and prevents her from having pre-marital or extra-marital affairs.

      Male circumcision, on the other hand, is not linked to a man’s sexual desire or pleasure and is not known to affect the sex organ. FGC does damage the sex organs, inhibiting pleasure and potentially causing severe pain and complications for women’s sexual and reproductive health. See more here.

      Thus, FGC is a patriarchal cultural tradition carried out with the intent of subjugating women and controlling their bodies. The practice serves to oppress women, reinforcing the perpetuation of their marginalization and inferior status in society. Further, the harmful health implications of FGC cannot be compared with that of male circumcision. For more information, please refer to Equality Now’s FGM Fact Sheet.

      Male Circumcision is performed, according to Dawoodi Bohras and others, for reasons of hygiene as well. Though there is an intense debate on whether indeed there are medical benefits, necessitating the need for male circumcision amongst those living in developed countries, such as the United States (see more here.)

      However, the World Health Organization has stated that there is compelling evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexually acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60%. Three randomized controlled trials have shown that male circumcision provided by well-trained health professionals in properly equipped settings is safe. WHO/UNAIDS recommendations emphasize that male circumcision should be considered an efficacious intervention for HIV prevention in countries and regions with heterosexual epidemics, high HIV and low male circumcision prevalence.

      There are no known health benefits for any form of FGC.


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