One of my male cousins married a lady who is not Bohra and not Muslim. He had a court marriage with her in the country where he resides, while his mom (my aunt), lived in Bahrain. For the sake of his mom’s happiness, he decided to get a nikah done by the bhai saab of the Bahrain Dawoodi Bohra masjid.
When my aunt went to this bhai saab to inquire about what needs to be done and how to go about it, the bhai saab told her that the girl should have ‘sunnat’ done to her. Meaning, khatna. How creepy! Being a man and asking that a young girl’s genitals be cut. My aunt was really irritated by this but she said nothing. She decided that she’d just go back to the bhai saab a few days later and tell him that it was done, without actually doing it of course, and sparing her daughter-in-law the trauma and humiliation.
When my aunt went back to the bhai saab to say it was done, guess what he said this time? He said that the ben saab (his wife) would need to check that it was done to the bride. Yes! He actually said that his wife would have to check a grown woman’s genitals to make sure she had undergone the process of female genital cutting.
Needless to say, my aunt was enraged by now and my cousin dropped the idea of getting the nikah done by the Bohra masjid in Bahrain. According to my cousin, this happened in either 2011 or 2012.
Female genital cutting or khatna, as it is known in the Dawoodi Bohra community, is already rampant and is done to girls as young as 6 years old, without their consent. This in itself is horrifying. It is sexual abuse and child abuse.
But to ask a grown adult woman who isn’t from your community or religion that she needs to undergo a process that’s traumatizing, humiliating, and completely unnecessary, JUST so she can be a part of the community, and as if the khatna is the only thing that makes us Bohra – this borders on cult behaviour! As if getting khatna done is the way for the bride to prove that she will do anything to be a part of the community ‘legally by nikah’ (even though they are already legally married). But what’s more disgusting is that the bhai saab had the gall to ask that his wife check whether the girl’s khatna was done or not.
Sometimes I wonder if these priests even know what they’re asking, and how would they like it if the situation were reversed? Would they be willing to show their private parts to a higher priest to check if they were circumcised properly when they were children? Or show their private parts for any other reason, to someone who is not even a medical professional, just a high ranking person within the community?
No, right? Then how can they ask that for a woman?
And then the bigger question:
What does this have to do with the girl’s nikah or being a part of the community? Nothing. It has nothing to do with it. They could have asked my cousin sister-in-law to recite something, or done any other simple ritual like the misaaq (which just involves answering a few questions and confirming that you’ll be a part of the community, follow its rules, etc) that doesn’t involve having any part of her body cut, let alone a part of her clitoris! How dare you think you have any right over a woman’s body and what has to be done to it?
The thought that angers me the most is that this story has only just reached my ears now. Other Bohras probably don’t even know about the creepy thing this bhai saab demanded, or about the fact that my aunt didn’t get enraged and yell at him for asking such a thing for her daughter-in-law. It also angers me that so many other Bohras would have probably still continued to follow his words even if they came to know of this story.
A priest from your community should NOT be telling you that the women in your community need to have their genitals cut. And if they are, why would you still listen to another word they’re saying or follow any other advice they’re giving you? I’m sure you have a capable enough brain and conscience to know what’s right and wrong, and to act upon it. It’s high time you stop letting bhai saabs get away with things like this.