Country: Mumbai, India
As I belong to a well-known and educated family, I was always given a chance to think outside the box. My parents were always supportive irrespective of what our community norms were. I was educated and given the same rights as my brothers and my voice was never unheard and my opinions were also considered. I was a daughter but treated as a son.
But as our community was a little more tightly knitted, everyone had a say in what happened to me, and with all the women in my family influencing us, my mom agreed at the age of seven that I would have to go through the ceremony of Khatna.
I still remember that day clearly. My mom and masi (aunt) took me to this woman’s house in Pune to get the job done. I might not remember the pain now, but the fear, the sadness and distrust from that day remain. I know many of my cousins still ask me, “Why are you so upset about what happened? Has it changed us in any way?”
I agree Khatna might not have changed my desire towards sex, but it has changed my outlook towards our mothers who told us that anyone who touched us forcefully was wrong, especially in our private areas, but then they, themselves, took us to an unknown woman, a stranger who pulled down our pants and touched us. How is what this stranger did any different from sexual abuse? Why don’t our mothers or grandmothers or aunts think that seven is not an age where children are old enough to understand what is happening to them? Why don’t they realize that this may leave an impact on us that might make our parents regret their decision later on?
I don’t remember the pain of childbirth, but I remember the emotions I felt. That’s the same for these little girls. I don’t think I can decide if Khatna should be abolished or not for adult women, but, I am sure Khatna shouldn’t happen to young kids. Childhood is about making sure your kids are safe and that they trust you to not scar them. Let our girls grow up. Inform them of any changes that we might plan to do to their bodies. Let’s educate our kids about our religion, not scare them into practices.
I know many people who will disagree and they are welcome to do so, as I only want to share my point of view. I am a mom of two girls. I know I can make their lives better by not forcing them into my or our elders’ beliefs. I want to educate them that our community is a progressive community where we are confident, educated women, who are taught to be entrepreneurs, and who have the right to choose the path we desire.
For all the mothers of daughters in our community, please take the time to think about what I am saying. Let our daughters grow up and make their own choices. Let’s not decide on their behalf.