Sahiyo hosts its second Thaal Pe Charcha event for Bohra women

On July 1, Sahiyo conducted its second ‘Thaal Pe Charcha’ event which was attended by 20 women from the Dawoodi Bohra community. Thaal Pe Charcha (TPC), which loosely translates as “having discussions while eating food”, is a flagship Sahiyo programme where Bohra women are brought together in a private, informal setting so that they can bond over food and discuss issues that affect their lives, like FGC or Khatna.

Sahiyo’s first TPC was held in February with women in their 20s and 30s. This time, participants included women from all age groups, the youngest being 18 and the oldest 74 years of age. The women included students, working professionals, home-makers, and also a practicing doctor. This eclectic mix gave Sahiyo an opportunity to gauge the thought processes of women across different demographics, on the much-debated practice of Khatna within the Dawoodi Bohra community.

The event was kicked off with an introductory session, followed by a film screening of Priya Goswami’s ‘A Pinch of Skin’, a delicious, traditional thaal lunch, and an open forum for women to discuss their thoughts about Khatna.

It was heartening to see the women get emotional while speaking about their experiences of this age-old tradition. Some expressed regret at having done Khatna on their daughters. Others said that if given a choice, they would want to be educated about this ritual, its pros and cons, and perhaps refrain from doing it to their daughters. The highlight of this event was definitely the oldest participant, a 74-year-old woman who defied traditions years ago to ensure that her daughter was not cut.

To view more pictures from Thaal Pe Charcha, check out our Facebook Album.

Female Genital Cutting is being practiced in Kerala too: Sahiyo investigation

by Aarefa Johari and Aysha Mahmood

(Read the Malayalam version of this report here.)

The practice of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) in India has so far been associated only with the Dawoodi Bohra community and other smaller Bohra sub-sects. However, a recent investigation by Sahiyo found that FGC – the ritual of cutting parts of the female genitalia – is also being practiced by some other communities in at least one part of Kerala.

During an investigation in February, Sahiyo found a medical clinic in Kozhikode (Calicut) where two doctors admitted that they perform the procedure of “sunnath”, or circumcision, on both boys and girls. They claimed that women from several local Muslim sects are increasingly coming to their clinic to have sunnath performed for themselves, their daughters and even their daughters-in-law.

The doctors said that in the female circumcision ritual, they cut the prepuce of the clitoris, also known as the clitoral hood, because it is allegedly “good for married life”. They also mentioned that “some husbands insist on it”. The doctors claimed that this ritual is also practiced in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Africa, but denied that it could be harmful.

However, the sunnath ritual described by the Kozhikode doctors falls within the World Health Organisation’s definition of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), which is internationally recognised as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination against women. WHO defines FGM/C as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.

WHO has classified FGM/C into four types, based on degrees of severity. The least severe – and most common – is Type 1, which involves partial or total removal of the clitoris or the clitoral hood. (Read about the other Types of FGM/C here.)

Female Genital Cutting in Kerala

Sahiyo’s investigation in Kerala was based on a tip-off from a resident of the state who had come across discussions about sunnath on females in some online Malayalam forums. The resident claimed that the practice is typically performed by an “ozathy” or a traditional cutter without medical training, but is also being done by some doctors in the Malabar region.

When Sahiyo spoke to gynaecologists in prominent hospitals in Kozhikode and Malapuram, they stated they were unaware of the practice and were firmly opposed to it. However, one small clinic in Kozhikode, run by a doctor known for performing male circumcisions, candidly admitted practicing sunnath on girls as well.

For the investigation, the Sahiyo reporter posed as woman who needed to make inquiries about female sunnath because her fiancé’s mother wanted her to be circumcised before marriage. When asked if she performs female sunnath, the lady doctor at the clinic said, “yes, we do it”. She said that the practice involved “cutting the foreskin of the clitoris” to increase sexual pleasure, and that it is “good for married life”.

The lady doctor claimed that the practice was now growing popular among Muslim women from “many sects” in Kerala, and that she performed it for girls and women of “any age”. For very young girls, she said, the procedure is sometimes performed by the male doctor who runs the clinic. The doctors apply local anaesthesia before the cutting, and they claim the wound takes five days to heal.

“It is better to do it when the girl is a baby,” the lady doctor said. “But these days a lot of women prefer to get it done for themselves immediately after delivering their baby, when they’re also getting other stitches to their vagina. That way they have to deal with two pains in one go.” According to the doctors, some women also ask for sunnath after delivery because “delivery lessens sexual pleasure and the sunnath helps enhance it”.

The lady doctor also offers pre- and post-marriage counselling at the clinic, and she claimed that she recommends sunnath for women during such counselling to allegedly improve their sex lives. “Once their sex life is better, their marriage will also be happy,” she said.

When Sahiyo asked whether the practice is compulsory for Muslim women, the doctor said, “It is not compulsory, but if your mother-in-law has told you to do it, then it is compulsory for you, you have to get it done.”

The male doctor at the clinic claimed that the practice is mentioned in “four or five Hadiths”, or Islamic texts containing the teachings of the Prophet. “You should read up about it, this is also done in Saudi, Egypt and Africa,” he said. The doctor denied any knowledge of the fact that this practice is controversial or that some African communities cut more than just the clitoris. “There is no controversy, very little is cut,” he said.

Despite this, the clinic’s website mentions only male circumcision in the list of services it offers, and makes no mention of female circumcision. The practice is secretive, the doctors said, because it is a “female issue”, and the religious taboos associated with “all things female” prevent people from talking about it. However, the doctors asked the Sahiyo reporters to “spread the word” among friends that they perform sunnath for girls.

It is unclear how widespread the practice of FGC is in Kerala, or for how long it has been practiced in the region. Since the investigation, Sahiyo has come across at least two persons – one from Kerala and one from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu – who claim to know a female relative who has undergone sunnath, but the women in question did not wish to come on record.

Is FGC illegal in India?

According to WHO, there are no medical benefits of any type of FGM/C, and the practice can in fact be harmful. The negative health consequences of Type 1 FGM/C include pain, bleeding, urinary problems, infections, injury to genital tissue, sexual problems and long-term psychological trauma. The clitoris, located above the vagina and urethra, is a bundle of sensitive nerve tissue that serves the sole purpose of giving the woman sexual pleasure when aroused. Damage to the clitoris can lead to reduced sexual sensitivity and stimulation.

FGC is not an Islamic practice and is not mentioned anywhere in the Quran. It is not practiced by all Muslim sects and in some countries, it is practiced among Christian, Jewish and animist communities too.

FGC illegal in at least 41 countries around the world, including in Egypt and several African countries. India does not have a specific law against FGC, but the Supreme Court is currently hearing a Public Interest Litigation by an independent lawyer asking for a ban on the practice.

On May 8, the Supreme Court asked the Central government and four state governments to respond to the PIL. On May 29, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi issued a statement clarifying that Female Genital Cutting would already be considered illegal under the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).

Contact Sahiyo:
Sahiyo is a collective working to end the practice of Female Genital Cutting / Khatna / Sunnath among all South Asian communities.
If you have undergone this practice in Kerala or any other part of India, and would like to talk about your experience or get more information about the practice, reach out to Sahiyo at info@sahiyo.com.
We will help you to the best of our abilities, and your confidentiality will be protected.”

AN APPEAL TO THE MEDIA

We understand that Female Genital Cutting (FGC) is a shocking topic for many people, and that the media is likely to investigate and report on FGC in Kerala in the days to come. However, it is also a very sensitive topic for women who have undergone the practice and for communities that follow it.
Sahiyo therefore appeals to all journalists, editors, photographers, graphic designers and bloggers to report on this topic sensitively, without sensationalism, by keeping the following points in mind:

• Respect the privacy and perspective of women and girls: FGC is a form of gender-based violence, so when you are interviewing and quoting women who have undergone FGC, do not reveal any information that will compromise their identities (unless the woman consents to reveal her own identity). Ask her if she prefers to be called a “survivor”, a “victim” or neither, and use the term that she chooses for herself.

• “Mutilation” versus “Cutting”: FGC is often called Female Genital Mutilation in the media, but “mutilation” is a controversial term that many FGC-practicing communities find offensive and judgemental. This is because women do not cut their daughters with the intention of “mutilating” or harming them – they do it because they believe it is a social, cultural or religious norm that is good for their daughters. Several activists around the world now prefer the more neutral term “Female Genital Cutting”, and even the World Health Organisation now calls the practice “Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting”. So we request the media to avoid the term “mutilation”, unless community members themselves prefer to use that term.

• Avoid sensationalist language and visuals: Please avoid using words like “barbaric”, “horrific”, “gruesome” or “tribal” to describe FGC. Such language can be traumatic for women who have undergone the practice and can also alienate the communities who practice FGC. Similarly, avoid depicting FGC with images of blades covered with blood or children crying in pain. These too, can be traumatic for women who have been through the practice.

• Read Sahiyo’s Media Resource Guide: Sahiyo has created a special guide to help the media understand the practice of FGC and report on it sensitively and effectively. Although this guide focuses largely on the Dawoodi Bohra community, a lot of the information applies to any reporting on FGC anywhere. Click here to read it.

പെൺസുന്നത്ത്/ചേലാകർമ്മം കേരളത്തിലും – ഒരു സഹിയോ അന്വേഷണം

– ആരിഫാ ജോഹരി , ആയിഷ മഹ്മൂദ് എന്നിവരുടെ കണ്ടെത്തലുകൾ.

(Read the English version of this report here.)

ഇന്ത്യയിൽ പെൺകുട്ടികളുടെ ചേലാകർമ്മം, ഇന്ന് വരെ  ദാവൂദി ബോഹ്‌റാ വിഭാഗക്കാരുടെ ഇടയിലും മറ്റു ചെറുബോഹ്‌റാ വിഭാഗങ്ങളുടെയും ഇടയിൽ മാത്രമാണ് ആചരിച്ചു വരുന്നത് എന്നാണു പൊതുവെയുള്ള വിശ്വാസം . എന്നാൽ, സഹിയോ എന്ന സംഘടന ഈയടുത്ത് നടത്തിയ ചില അന്വേഷണങ്ങളിൽ , പെൺസുന്നത്ത് മറ്റു ചില ഇസ്‌ലാമിക വിഭാഗങ്ങളുടെ ഇടയിലും , കേരളത്തിന്റെ ചിലഭാഗങ്ങളിൽ എങ്കിലും, നടത്തുന്നതായി സൂചന ലഭിക്കുകയുണ്ടായി.

ഫെബ്രുവരിയിൽ നടത്തിയ ഒരു അണ്ടർകവർ അന്വേഷണത്തിൽ, സഹിയോയുടെ പ്രവർത്തകർ, കോഴിക്കോട്ടുള്ള ഒരു ക്ലിനിക്കിൽ, പെൺചേലാകർമ്മം ചെയ്യാറുണ്ടെന്നു സമ്മതിക്കുന്ന രണ്ട് ഡോക്ടർമാരെ പരിചയപ്പെടുകയുണ്ടായി. പെൺകുട്ടികളുടെയും ആൺകുട്ടികളുടെയും ചേലാകര്മ്മം  അവരുടെ ക്ലിനിക്കിൽ സ്ഥിരമായി നടക്കാറുണ്ടെന്ന് അവർ അവകാശപ്പെട്ടു. അവരുടെ വാദമനുസരിച്ച്  കേരളത്തിന്റ പലഭാഗങ്ങളിൽ നിന്നും സ്ത്രീകൾ സുന്നത്ത് ചെയ്യാനായി അവരെ സമീപിക്കുകയും, അവരുടെ പെൺമക്കളെയും, മരുമകളെയും കൊണ്ട് വരാറുണ്ടെന്നും പറയുന്നു. ഇവരുടെ എണ്ണത്തിൽ വർദ്ധനവും ഉണ്ടെന്ന് അവർ പറയുന്നു.

ഡോക്ടർ വിശദീകരിക്കുന്നത്, പെൺസുന്നത്തിനു സ്ത്രീകളുടെ യോനീഛദത്തിന്റെ (clitoris) അറ്റത്തുള്ള തോല് നീക്കുകയാണ് ചെയ്യുക. ഇത് clitoral hood എന്നാണുഅറിയപ്പെടുന്നത്. അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ അഭിപ്രായത്തിൽ ഇത് “വൈവാഹികജീവിതം അത്യാഹ്ലാദകരമാക്കുന്നു”. മാത്രമല്ല ചില ഭർത്താക്കന്മാരും, ഭാര്യമാരും ഇതിനു നിർബന്ധം പിടിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുന്നു. സൗദിയിലും ഈജിപ്തിലും ആഫ്രിക്കയിലും ഇത് സർവ്വസാധാരണമാണെന്നും- ഇതിൽ യാതൊരു അപകടം  ഇല്ലെന്നും അവർ സാക്ഷ്യപെടുത്തുന്നു.

എന്നിരിക്കിലും, കോഴിക്കോട്ടുള്ള ഈ ഡോക്ടർമാർ വിവരിച്ച രീതിയിലുള്ള ചേലാകർമ്മം ലോകാരോഗ്യസംഘടനയുടെ (WHO) Female Genital Mutilation / Cutting (FGM/ C) എന്ന നിർവചനത്തിൽപെടുന്നതാണ്. ഇതാവട്ടെ മാനുഷികാവകാശങ്ങൾ ഹനിക്കുകയും, സ്ത്രീകൾക്ക് എതിരായുള്ള വിവേചനപൂർണ്ണനടപടിയായി അംഗീകരിക്കപ്പെട്ടതും ആണ്. ലോകാരോഗ്യസംഘടന FGM/ Cയെ ഇങ്ങനെ നിർവചിക്കുന്നു “സ്ത്രീകളുടെ ബാഹ്യമായി കാണപ്പെടുന്ന യോനി വൈദ്യശാസ്ത്രപരമായ ആവശ്യങ്ങൾക്കല്ലാതെ പൂർണ്ണമോ ഭാഗികമോ ആയി നീക്കം ചെയ്യുന്നതോ, മുറിവേൽപ്പിക്കുന്നതോ ആയ എല്ലാ രീതിയിലുള്ള പ്രവർത്തിയും ഇതിൽപെടുന്നു”

ലോകാരോഗ്യസംഘടനാ FGM/ C അതിന്റെ തീവ്രത അനുസരിച്ച് നാല് തരമായി തിരിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നു. ഏറ്റവും തീവ്രത കുറഞ്ഞതും -എന്നാൽ ഏറ്റവും പൊതുവായി നടത്തപെടുന്നതും ഇതിൽ ടൈപ് വൺ എന്ന്  വിളിക്കപ്പെടുന്ന അഗ്രചർമ്മം മുറിച്ച്  നീക്കുന്ന രീതിയാണ്.

കേരളത്തിലെ പെൺസുന്നത്ത്:

സ്ത്രീചേലാകർമ്മത്തെ കുറിച്ചുള്ള ഒരു മലയാളം ബ്ലോഗിൽ വന്ന കമന്റ് കാണുകയും , സഹിയോയെ ബന്ധപ്പെടുകയും ചെയ്ത ഒരു മലയാളിയിൽ നിന്നാണ് നമ്മുടെ അന്വേഷണം തുടങ്ങുന്നത്. അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ അറിവ് വച്ച്, കേരളത്തിൽ ഇത്  നടത്തുന്നത് “ഒസ്സാതികൾ” എന്ന് പ്രാദേശികമായി അറിയപ്പെട്ടിരുന്ന ക്ഷുരകന്മാർ ആയിരുന്നു- അപൂർവ്വമായി ഡോക്ടർമാരും.

ഇതനുസരിച്ച്  സഹിയോ പ്രവർത്തകർ മലബാറിലെ ചില ആശുപത്രികൾ സന്ദർശിക്കുകയും , അന്വേഷണം നടത്തുകയും ചെയ്തു. ഈ ഹോസ്പിറ്റലുകളിൽ ഞങ്ങൾ ബന്ധപ്പെട്ട ഡോക്ടർമാർ ഇങ്ങനെയൊരു ആചാരത്തെ കുറിച്ച് കേട്ടറിവ്  മാത്രമാണെന്നും , അതൊരു രീതിയിലും അംഗീകരിക്കുകയോ പിന്തുടരുകയോ ചെയ്യാറില്ല എന്ന് ഉറപ്പിച്ച് പറഞ്ഞു. മാത്രമല്ല, അങ്ങനെയുള്ള എന്തെങ്കിലും കണ്ടാൽ അത് റിപ്പോർട്ട് ചെയ്യുകയും ചെയ്യും എന്നും പറഞ്ഞു.  ഇതിനു ശേഷമാണ് സുന്നത്ത് ക്ലിനിക് എന്ന് പരക്കെ അറിയപ്പെടുന്ന ഒരു ചെറിയ ക്ലിനിക്കിൽ ഇത് ചെയ്യാറുണ്ട് എന്ന് അവിടെയുള്ള ഡോക്ടർ തന്നെ യാതൊരു സങ്കോചവും ഇല്ലാതെ സമ്മതിച്ചത്.

അന്വേഷണത്തിനായി സഹിയോപ്രവർത്തകർ ആവശ്യക്കാരായി നടിക്കുകയും അവരെ സമീപിക്കുകയും ചെയ്തു. ഒരു പ്രവർത്തക തന്നെ ഭർതൃവീട്ടിൽ നിന്നും നിർബന്ധിക്കുന്നു എന്ന വ്യാജേന അതിനെ പറ്റി കൂടുതൽ അറിയാൻ വന്നതാണെന്നും പേടിയുണ്ടെന്നും പറഞ്ഞു. “ഇവിടെ ഇഷ്ടം പോലെ ചെയ്യാറുണ്ടല്ലോ” എന്നായിരുന്നു ലേഡി ഡോക്ടറുടെ മറുപടി. തുടർന്ന് അത് ചെയ്യുന്ന രീതി വിശദമായി പറഞ്ഞു തരികയും “ലൈംഗിക സുഖം വർദ്ധിക്കുകയും” “വൈവാഹികജീവിതത്തിനു ഒഴിച്ച് കൂടാനാവാത്തതും” എന്ന് ഊട്ടിഉറപ്പിക്കുന്ന രീതിയിൽ പറയുകയും ചെയ്തു. തങ്ങളുടെ അടുത്ത് വൈവാഹിക കൗസലിങ്ങിന് വരുന്നവരോട് തങ്ങൾ പെൺസുന്നത്ത് നീർദ്ദേശിക്കാറുണ്ടെന്നും, അതവരുടെ ലൈംഗികജീവിതവും വിവാഹജീവിതവും ആനന്ദപ്രദമാക്കും എന്നും ഇവർ അവകാശപ്പെടുന്നു.

കേരളത്തിലെ എല്ലാ വിഭാഗം മുസ്ലിങ്ങളുടെയും ഇടയിൽ ഇത് വളരെ പ്രചാരം നേടുന്നുണ്ടെന്നും ആളുകൾ അന്വേഷിച്ച് വരുന്നുണ്ടെന്നും ഇവർ പറയുന്നു.  മാത്രമല്ല, എല്ലാ പ്രായത്തിലുള്ള പെൺകുട്ടികളിലും ചെയ്ത പരിചയം തങ്ങൾക്കുണ്ടെന്നും ഇവർ അവകാശപ്പെടുന്നു. വളരെ കുഞ്ഞുകുട്ടികൾക്ക് അധികവും പുരുഷഡോക്ടർ ആണ് ചെയ്യാറുള്ളതെന്നും മറ്റുള്ളവ താനാണ്  കൈകാര്യം ചെയ്യാറുള്ളതെന്നും ലേഡി ഡോക്ടർ പറഞ്ഞു. പൂർണ്ണ സ്വകാര്യത ക്ലിനിക് വാഗ്ദാനം ചെയുന്നു.   ചേലാകർമ്മത്തിനു മുൻപേ ലോക്കൽ അനസ്തീസിയ ചെയ്ത് ആ ഭാഗം മരവിപ്പിക്കുകയും , തുടർന്ന് വേദനസംഹാരിയും നൽകുന്നതായിരിക്കും. മുറിവ് ഉണങ്ങാൻ അഞ്ചു മുതൽ ആറു ദിവസം എടുക്കും എന്നാണു അറിയിച്ചത്.

“കൈക്കുഞ്ഞായിരിക്കുന്പോൾ ചെയ്യുന്നതാണ് അഭികാമ്യം. പക്ഷെ ഇപ്പോൾ ഒരു പാട് സ്ത്രീകൾ അവരുടെ പ്രസവശേഷം, സുന്നത്ത് ചെയ്യാറുണ്ട്. അതാകുന്പോൾ പ്രസവസമയത്ത് ഉള്ള തുന്നലും, ഇതിന്റെ തുന്നലും എല്ലാം ഒരു വേദനയിൽ കഴിഞ്ഞു കിട്ടും. ശേഷം അവരുടെ ലൈംഗികസുഖവും ഇരട്ടിക്കും. പ്രസവശേഷം പലരുടെയും സുഖം കുറയുന്നതായി കാണാം.” എന്ന് ലേഡി ഡോക്ടർ വിശദീകരിക്കുന്നു.

മുസ്ലിം സ്ത്രീകൾക്ക് ഇത് നിർബന്ധമാണോ എന്ന് സഹിയോ  ചോദിച്ചപ്പോൾ “നിബന്ധമൊന്നുമല്ല. പക്ഷെ ഭർത്താവും അമ്മായിയമ്മയും പറയുകയാണെങ്കിൽ നിങ്ങൾ ചെയ്തേ തീരൂ, നിങ്ങൾക്ക് അത്  നീർബന്ധം തന്നെയാണ്” എന്ന് ഡോക്ടർ മറുപടി നൽകുന്നു.

ക്ലിനിക്കിലെ പുരുഷഡോക്ടർ, ഹദീസിൽ നാലഞ്ചിടത്ത്ഇ ഇതിനെ കുറിച്ച് വളരെ വ്യക്തമായി പരാമർശിക്കുന്നുണ്ടെന്നും, അവ വായിക്കുന്നത് നന്നായിരിക്കുമെന്നും ഉപദേശിക്കുന്നു. മാത്രമല്ല സൗദിയിലും ഈജിപ്തിലും ആഫ്രിക്കയിലും എത്രയോ ആയിരം വര്ഷങ്ങളായി ഇത് പിന്തുടരുന്നുണ്ടല്ലോ എന്നും ഓർമിപ്പിക്കുന്നു. ആ രാജ്യങ്ങളിലെ ഇത്തരം ആചാരങ്ങളെ കുറിച്ച് പേടിപ്പെടുത്തുന്ന കഥകളും , അതിനെതിരായി വിവാദങ്ങളും കണ്ടതായി പ്രവർത്തകർ ആശങ്ക പ്രകടിപ്പിച്ചപ്പോൾ “അതൊക്കെ വെറുതെയാണ്. ഒരു ചെറിയ മുറിവ് മാത്രമാണ്, അല്ലാതെ മുഴുവനായി മുറിച്ച് കളയുകയൊന്നും ഇല്ല” എന്ന് ഡോക്ടർ വ്യക്തമാക്കുന്നു.

എന്നാൽ, ഈ ക്ലിനിക്കിന്റെ വെബ്‌സൈറ്റിൽ ആൺകുട്ടികളുടെ സുന്നത്തിനെ കുറിച്ച് മാത്രമേ പരസ്യം ചെയ്തിട്ടുള്ളൂ എന്ന കാര്യം ചൂണ്ടി കാണിച്ചപ്പോൾ, അവർ അത് വിട്ടു പോയതാണെന്നും, അതൊന്നു മറക്കാതെ ചെയ്യണം എന്ന് പരസ്പരം ഓർമ്മിപ്പിക്കുകയും ചെയ്തു. മാത്രമല്ല പ്രവർത്തകരോട് ഞങ്ങളുടെ സുഹൃത്തുക്കളോടും കുടുംബക്കാരോടും ഈ സർവ്വീസ് ഇവിടെ ലഭ്യമാണെന്ന് അറിയിക്കണം എന്ന് ആവശ്യപ്പെട്ടു.

പെൺസുന്നത്ത്  കേരളത്തിൽ എത്രത്തോളം വിപുലമാണ് എന്നതിന് കണക്കുകൾ ഇല്ല- എത്ര കാലമായി എന്നതിനോ. സ്ത്രീലൈംഗികത സംബദ്ധമായ വിഷയമായത് കൊണ്ടും, മതത്തിന്റെ ഒരു ഘടന കാരണവും വളരെ സ്വകാര്യമായി മാത്രം, ഒരു പക്ഷെ, അനുഷ്ഠിച്ച്വരുന്ന ഇത്തരം ആചാരങ്ങളെ കുറിച്ച് വിവരം ശേഖരിക്കുന്നത് പ്രയാസമേറിയതാണ്. സഹിയോയുടെ അന്വേഷണങ്ങൾക്ക് ഒടുവിൽ; പെൺസുന്നത്തിനു വിധേയയായ രണ്ട് പേര് ; കേരളത്തിൽ നിന്ന് ഒരു സ്ത്രീയെയും കോയന്പത്ത്തൂരിൽ നിന്നു ഒരു സ്ത്രീയെയും കണ്ടെത്തുകയും സഹിയോ ബന്ധപ്പെടുകയും ചെയ്തു. എന്നാൽ രണ്ടു പേരും ഒരു വിധത്തിലും ഇതിനെ കുറിച്ച് സംസാരിക്കാനോ സാക്ഷ്യപെടുത്താനോ തയ്യാറായില്ല.

പെൺസുന്നത്ത് ഇന്ത്യയിൽ നിയമവിരുദ്ധമാണോ?

ലോകാരോഗ്യസംഘടനയുടെ വിവരണം അനുസരിച്ച്, പെൺസുന്നത്ത് കൊണ്ട്  യാതൊരു വിധത്തിലുമുള്ള നേട്ടവുമില്ല എന്ന് മാത്രമല്ല അത് ദോഷകരമാണ് താനും. ടൈപ്പ് വൺ FGM/ Cയുടെ ദൂഷ്യഫലങ്ങൾ വേദന, രക്തംപോക്ക്, മൂത്രാശയ അണുബാധ, യോനീകോശങ്ങൾക്കു  സംഭവിക്കാവുന്ന പരിക്ക്, ലൈംഗികപ്രശ്നങ്ങൾ, മാനസികമായ ആഘാതങ്ങൾ എന്നിവ  WHO  രേഖപെടുത്തുന്നു.  യോനിയുടെയും മൂത്രനാളത്തിന്റെയും ഇടയിലുള്ള യോനീച്ഛദം അഥവാ ക്ലിറ്റോറിസ് അതിവൈകാരികമായ നാഡികോശങ്ങളാൽ സന്പന്നമായ ഒരു അവയവഭാഗമാണ്. അതിന്റെ ഏകലക്ഷ്യം സ്ത്രീകളുടെ ലൈംഗിക ആനന്ദം മാത്രമാണ്. അത് മുറിച്ച് മാറ്റുകയോ, പരിക്കേൽപ്പിക്കുകയോ ചെയ്യുന്നതിലൂടെ ലൈംഗികാസ്വാദനവും ഉത്തേജനവും കുറയുകയാണ് ചെയ്യുന്നത്.

FGC  ഒരു ഇസ്‌ലാമിക ആചാരമല്ല, ഇതിനെ കുറിച്ച് ഖുർആനിൽ എവിടെയും പ്രതിപാദിച്ചിട്ടുമില്ല. ഇത് മുസ്ലിംകളുടെ ഇടയിൽ മാത്രം കണ്ടു വരുന്ന ഒരു ആചാരമല്ല താനും. ചില രാജ്യങ്ങളിൽ ക്രിസ്ത്യാനികളും, ജൂതന്മാരും, അനിമിസ്റ്റ്  വിഭാഗക്കാരും ഇത് പിന്തുടരാറുണ്ട്.

ലോകത്തെ  41 രാജ്യങ്ങളിൽ പെൺചേലാകർമ്മം നിയമവിരുദ്ധമാണ് – ഇതിൽ ഈജിപ്തും ചില  ആഫ്രിക്കൻരാജ്യങ്ങളും ഉൾപെടും.  ഇന്ത്യയിൽ ഇതിനെതിരെ നിലവിൽ ഒരു നിയമങ്ങളും ഇല്ല – എന്നാൽ ഒരു സ്വത്രന്ത്രവക്കീൽ ഇതിനെതിരായി സമർപ്പിച്ച പൊതുതാല്പര്യഹർജി ഇപ്പോൾ സുപ്രീംകോടതിയുടെ പരിഗണയിലുണ്ട്.

മെയ് എട്ടാം തീയതി സുപ്രീംകോടതി കേന്ദ്രസർക്കാരിനോടും, നാല് സംസ്ഥാന സർക്കാരുകളോടും ഈ പൊതുതാല്പര്യ ഹർജിയോട് പ്രതികരിക്കാൻ ആവശ്യപെട്ടിട്ടുണ്ട്.  മെയ് 29നു, വനിതാശിശുവികസനമന്ത്രാലയം ശ്രീമതി മേനകഗാന്ധിയുടെ നേതൃത്ത്വത്തിൽ, ഇന്ത്യൻ ശിക്ഷാനിയമത്തിന്റെയും Protection of Children from Sexual Offence  അഥവാ POSCOയുടെയും കീഴിൽ സ്ത്രീചേലാകർമ്മം സ്വയമേവ നിയമവിരുദ്ധമായി തീരും എന്ന് പ്രസ്താവനയിറക്കി.

സഹിയോയെ കുറിച്ച് കൂടുതൽ അറിയാൻ:

സഹിയോ; സ്ത്രീ ചേലാകർമ്മം , പെൺസുന്നത്ത്, ഖാറ്റ്നാ എന്നിങ്ങനെയുള്ള FGC  ആചാരങ്ങൾ ദക്ഷിണ ഏഷ്യൻ രാജ്യങ്ങളിൽ നിന്ന് തുടച്ചുനീക്കാൻ പ്രവർത്തിക്കുന്ന ഒരു സന്നദ്ധസംഘടനയാണ്.

നിങ്ങളിൽ ആർക്കെങ്കിലും ഇതിനെ കുറിച്ച് കൂടുതൽ അറിവുണ്ടെങ്കിൽ, അല്ലെങ്കിൽ അറിയാൻ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നെങ്കിൽ ഞങ്ങളുമായി ബന്ധപ്പെടാവുന്നതാണ്. info@sahiyo.com എന്ന അഡ്രസ്സിൽ നിങ്ങൾക്ക് മെയിൽ ചെയ്യാം.

വാർത്താമാധ്യമങ്ങളോടുഒരുഅപേക്ഷ

പെൺസുന്നത്ത് എന്ന ആചാരം പലർക്കും ഞെട്ടിപ്പിക്കുന്ന ഒരു സത്യം ആണെന്ന് ഞങ്ങൾ മനസ്സിലാക്കുന്നു.  ഇത് മീഡിയയിൽ സെൻസേഷൻ ആകാവുന്ന ഒരു വിഷയുമാണ്. എന്നിരുന്നാലും ഇതിനു വിധേയമായ സ്ത്രീകൾക്കും കുട്ടികൾക്കും ഇത് വളരെ വൈകാരികമായ ഒരു വിഷയം ആണെന്ന് കൂടി ഓർക്കേണ്ടതുണ്ട്. ഇതിനാൽ, ഈ വിഷയം കൈകാര്യം ചെയ്യാൻ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്ന മാധ്യമപ്രവർത്തകർ, എഡിറ്റർ, ഫോട്ടോഗ്രാഫർ, ഗ്രാഫിക്ഡിസൈനേഴ്സ്, ബ്ലോഗേഴ്സ് എന്നിവർ സമചിത്തതയോടും സഹാനുഭൂതിയോടും കൂടി വർത്തിക്കണം എന്ന് അപേക്ഷിക്കുന്നു.

– ഇതിനു വിധേയയായ സ്ത്രീകളുടെയും പെൺകുട്ടികളുടെയും സ്വകാര്യതയെമാനിക്കുക : പെൺസുന്നത്ത് ഒരു തരത്തിലുള്ള ലിംഗ-വിവേചന അക്രമമാണ്, അതിനാൽ നിങ്ങൾ ഇന്റർവ്യൂ ചെയ്യുന്പോഴും, അവരുടെ വാക്കുകൾ ഉദ്ധരിക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുന്പോൾ അവരുടെ പേരോ മറ്റു വിവരങ്ങളോ , അവരുടെ പൂർണ്ണസമ്മതത്തോടെയല്ലാതെ പുറത്ത് വിടരുത്. അവരെ “ഇര” “അതിജീവിച്ചവൾ” അതോ മറ്റുവല്ല വാക്കുകളാൽ സംബോധന ചെയ്യാമോ എന്ന് അവരോട് തന്നെ ചോദിച്ച് ഉറപ്പ് വരുത്തുക.

– ഛേദം പ്രതി മുറിക്കൽ: FGC എന്നത് പലപ്പോഴും FGM അഥവാ Female Genital Mutilation എന്ന് വിളിച്ച് കാണാറുണ്ട്. Mutilation അഥവാ ഛേദം എന്ന വാക്കു ഉപയോഗിക്കുന്നതിനെ കുറിച്ച് ആചാരമനുഷ്ഠിക്കുന്നവരുടെ ഇടയിൽ തർക്കങ്ങളുണ്ട് . അവരതിന് പറയുന്ന  കാരണങ്ങൾ ഛേദം എന്ന വാക്കിനു ഒരു വിപരീതലക്ഷ്യാർത്ഥം ഉണ്ടെന്നും ആരും അവരുടെ പെണ്മക്കളെ വികലമാക്കണം എന്ന ഉദ്ദേശത്തോടു കൂടി ഇത് ചെയ്യാറില്ല എന്നും പറയുന്നു. സാമൂഹികവും, മതപരവും, സാമുദായികവുമായ കാരണങ്ങൾ കൊണ്ടാണ് ഈ  ആചാരം അനുഷ്ടിക്കപെടുന്നത്. ലോകമെന്പാടുമുള്ള സാമൂഹികപ്രവർത്തകർ  Female Genital Cutting എന്ന പദം ഉപയോഗിക്കാനാണ് താത്പര്യപെടുന്നത്-  ലോകാരോഗ്യസംഘടന ഇത് ശരിവെക്കുകയും ചെയ്യുന്നു.

– അതിവൈകാരികമായ ഭാഷയും ചിത്രങ്ങളും ഉപയോഗിക്കാതിരിക്കുക:

“അപരിഷ്‌കൃതം” “ദാരുണം” “ഗോത്രീയം” എന്നിങ്ങനെയുള്ള പദങ്ങൾ പെൺസുന്നത്തിനെ കുറിച്ച്  എഴുതുന്പോൾ ഉപയോഗിക്കാതിരിക്കാൻ ശ്രധ്ധിക്കുക. സുന്നത്തിനു വിധേയരായ സ്ത്രീകൾക്ക് ഇത്  അരോചകമായിതോന്നിയേക്കും. ഇത്തരം പദപ്രയോഗങ്ങൾ അവരെ സമൂഹത്തിൽ നിന്നും ഒറ്റപ്പെടുത്തുകയും അവർക്ക് ഒരു തിരിച്ച് വരവ് ദുസ്സഹമാവുകയും ചെയ്യും.

ചോര ഇറ്റി വീഴുന്ന ബ്ലേഡ്,  കരയുന്ന കുഞ്ഞുങ്ങൾ, ബലമായി വിടർത്തി പിടിച്ച കാലുകൾ, പൊത്തി പിടിച്ച വായ എന്നിങ്ങനെയുള്ള ചിത്രങ്ങളും ഗ്രാഫിക്കുകളും  ഉപയോഗിക്കാതിരിക്കുക.

– സഹിയോയുടെ വെബ്സൈറ്റിൽ പോയാൽ നിങ്ങൾക്ക് കൂടുതൽ വിവരങ്ങൾ ലഭിക്കാവുന്നതാണ്. അവരുടെ മീഡിയ റിസോർസ് ഗൈഡ് സഹായകമായിരിക്കും. http://www.sahiyo.com

 

 

Part-time Admin Assistant Position Available in Mumbai

Administration position currently available in Mumbai, India. The individual should be able to commit to 30 hours per month for 7 months (August 1, 2017, until March 31, 2018) in this role. This position is a great opportunity for someone to learn how organizations/advocates engage in work to end Female Genital Cutting. By working towards an FGC-free world, the aim is to recognize and emphasize the values of consent and a child’s/woman’s right over her own body and to enable a culture in which female sexuality is not feared or suppressed but embraced as normal.

If interested, please submit a cover letter and CV/resume to info@sahiyo.com. 

Please note that the candidate is expected to be able to work independently/remotely, and communicate regularly with Supervisors.

The program assistant should:

  • Be comfortable coordinating logistics for events, including hiring of vendors, scouting event locations, assisting with writing MOUs/Contracts for Vendors, managing volunteers.
  • Be able to write relevant and insightful content for reporting requirements, including collating feedback for events, writing events descriptions for social media, newsletter, and grant reporting.
  • Be able to carry out basic financial management tasks, including reviewing the budget, managing bills, keeping track of expenses, submit and reconcile expenses reports.  
  • Be familiar with social media platforms such Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, WordPress, Google+ and basic social media management.
  • Be able to liaison with contractors, vendors, supervisors on a regular basis via email, phone, at the time of any on site activity, and in person regularly.
  • Other related tasks as deemed necessarily

Requirements

  • Be able to travel locally for events and other logistical meetings/tasks
  • Hardworking, driven, energetic, results-oriented and independent  
  • Adhere to supervisor’s mission, vision, and values
  • Desire to learn about FGC, with a focus on engaging with the community in a sensitive manner
  • Proficiency in MS Office (MS Excel and MS PowerPoint, in particular)
  • Excellent time management skills and the ability to prioritize work
  • Attention to detail and problem-solving skills
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Strong organizational skills with the ability to multi-task

 

To view pdf of Job Description, click Administrative Assistant Job Description.

 

Why doctors need to speak out against female genital cutting in India

By Aarefa Johari

(A shorter version of this piece was published on the British Medical Journal’s blogs site on January 20, 2017. Read it here.)

Two years ago I met Sara (name changed), a bright mother of two and a member of the Dawoodi Bohra community in Mumbai. From the time her daughter was a baby, Sara was determined she would not put her child through the ritual of khatna – female circumcision – that is considered mandatory for all Bohra girls. She had heard too many times that khatna is done to curb a girl’s sexual urges, and she was completely against the practice.

But when her daughter turned six, family pressure began to mount. Her mother-in-law was adamant that the child had to be cut at the age of seven, and after months of trying to resist, Sara finally caved in. She saw no choice but to have her daughter circumcised, so she decided to do everything in her power to ensure that khatna didn’t leave her little girl traumatised. No traditional, untrained “cutters” who use razor blades or knives to slice the clitoris; she wouldn’t even take her daughter to just any Bohra doctor authorised to perform khatna. Instead, Sara sought out a gynaecologist who agreed to completely sedate the child during the procedure.

Female circumcision, known around the world as Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM or FGC), is recognised as a human rights violation by the World Health Organisation. It involves cutting or altering parts of the female genitalia for non-medical reasons. There are various types of FGC practiced around the world, with varying degrees of severity. The kind that Bohras practice – cutting all or part of the clitoral hood – falls within WHO’s definition of Type 1 FGC. The practice is illegal in at least 40 countries, because there are no medical benefits to cutting any part of the female genitalia. In fact, even the mildest form of FGC can have harmful health consequences, including bleeding, swelling, painful urination, infection and reduced sexual sensitivity.

And yet, just two years ago, Sara’s seven-year-old daughter was cut in an operation theatre in a Mumbai hospital, by a licensed gynaecologist who administered general anaesthesia on the child so that she would have no memory of her clitoral hood being removed without consent.

If most doctors and medical associations in India are unaware of such incidents, I wouldn’t be surprised. Until a few years ago, almost no one had heard of Female Genital Cutting being practiced in India. Even international campaigns against FGM/C focused mainly on Africa, and only in the last few years has it been acknowledged that FGC is globally prevalent. But in India, Bohras have been secretly circumcising their daughters for centuries. Like so many seven-year-old Bohra girls, I was cut as a child too.

We are not a large community – barely two million in number – but those familiar with Dawoodi Bohras know us as a close-knit, well-educated, wealthy business community with a reputation for being progressive towards women. But the Bohras are the only group known to practice FGC in India so far. Other Indian Muslim sects don’t even consider the ritual Islamic, because there is no mention of it in the Quran.

Bohra families, depending on who you speak to, give a variety of different reasons for practicing female khatna. “It is in the religion”, “it curbs sexual desire” and “it prevents pre-marital and extra-marital affairs” are the most common justifications; other reasons include hygiene and health, specifically the prevention of urinary tract infections and other diseases. Medically, of course, there is no proof of such claims.

More recently, some Bohras have begun rationalising khatna with the strangest argument: they claim it is the same as “clitoral unhooding”, a surgical procedure that a number of doctors in Western countries perform on adult women to enhance sexual pleasure. I first heard this argument from Sara, a few months after her daughter was cut. The child may have been sedated in the OT, but the mother was still deeply uncomfortable with her khatna. After the “surgery”, Sara spent hours online trying to understand what exactly had been cut and why. She then came across a website on clitoral unhooding. It claimed that by removing the hood covering the clitoral glans, the clitoris is more exposed and thus experiences more stimulation and pleasure. Sara shared the website with another Bohra doctor who performs khatna. “Yes, this is exactly what our khatna is. It is done to enhance sexual pleasure,” the doctor claimed.

This affirmation came as solace for Sara – her daughter was not harmed after all, and khatna turned out to have a “positive” intention. Her maternal relief was blind to the gaping holes in this “clitoral unhooding” theory, which were obvious on the website itself. As a surgical procedure, unhooding is recommended only for some sexually active women, if they have excess prepuce tissue that hinders orgasms by preventing the clitoral glans from protruding during arousal. Otherwise, the hood serves important function of protecting the clitoris from over-stimulation or abrasions.

Unfortunately, now that there is a growing movement against FGC within the community, many khatna supporters are trying to promote clitoral unhooding as a “scientific” justification for cutting all seven-year-old girls without consent. If this isn’t enough to mislead parents, we are also witnessing another disturbing trend: the medicalisation of khatna.

Medicalisation refers to the trend in which the cultural, non-medical practice of FGC is increasingly performed by a trained medical practitioner instead of an untrained traditional cutter. For several years now, Bohras in bigger cities like Mumbai have been getting their daughters cut by doctors (though not necessarily gynaecologists) in Bohra hospitals or clinics. They have come to realise that untrained cutters are not only unhygienic, but are also more likely to cut more than intended – particularly if the child is kicking or resisting the cut. The trend is now also spreading to smaller cities and towns. A few months ago, I met a Bohra woman in Jamnagar, Gujarat, who told me, “We’ve stopped going to cutters now because there were too many cases going wrong at their hands.”

Undoubtedly, a doctor will perform khatna in a safer manner than a neighbourhood aunty with a blade. But medicalisation also promotes the entirely false idea that FGC, even in its mildest form, is medically beneficial and acceptable. Not all Bohras are affected by khatna in a uniform manner, and many say they have faced no negative consequences. But in the past five years, with the silence around this tradition gradually breaking, we have heard innumerable stories of women who have been physically, psychologically and sexually scarred by their circumcisions in a variety of ways. Some women bled for days after their khatna and endured lasting pain; many have been unable to forget the mental trauma of being betrayed by their mothers, held down and abused; some have had to seek therapy to be able to get intimate with their partners and many claim they don’t feel easily aroused by clitoral stimulation.

What is a doctor’s responsibility, then, in the face of such a ritual? Two of the most basic pillars of medical ethics are to do no harm and to act in the best interests of a patient. Female circumcision has no health benefits and can potentially harm girls and women. For a patient, it serves no scientific or medical interest to have any part of the clitoris removed. In fact, since khatna is not a medical procedure at all, girls being brought to get cut can hardly be called patients. Besides, a seven-year-old is not capable of giving informed consent to a procedure that permanently alters one of her most vital sexual organs.

Some doctors I know are already discouraging parents from getting their daughters circumcised. But others carry out khatna on little girls even if they are aware that it has no medical standing. “There is no point asking whether it [khatna] is right or wrong – we have to do it anyway,” said one Bohra gynaecologist I spoke to a few years ago. If a doctor herself adopts this perspective, what happens to medical ethics and scientific temper?

Now that the practice of FGC among Bohras is no longer a secret, perhaps it is time for medical bodies and doctors’ associations to take an official stand on the subject. There are already scores of activists working to end khatna by spreading awareness within the community. In a few years, India might even have a law against the practice. But strong medical opinion is just as important. Because in a few years, Sara’s second daughter will turn seven. And in the name of “scientific” clitoral unhooding, she intends to get this child circumcised too.

If the medical fraternity publicly and vocally condemns this practice, this girl – and many more – could be saved from the blade.

Why I am a proud supporter of Sahiyo

By: Anonymous

Age: 38
Country: India

As a Dawoodi Bohra woman, I am proud of Sahiyo and the work it is doing.

Because I am tired of people assuming that we as Muslim women are hapless victims that need to be rescued from their Islamic cultures steeped in orthodoxy and patriarchal traditions. Or that we are consenting participants in our own oppression and so self absorbed that we cannot look beyond our homes, families and ourselves.

It is because of Sahiyo that I can feel proud of my roots again and be aware that there are responsibilities that come with the privilege that we have gained as a community in society. And that change begins with oneself.

I am proud that Sahiyo is reminding us to think and act for ourselves and uphold the true spirit of Islam – reason, justice, fairness and benevolence.

It is high time that Dawoodi Bohra women speak out fearlessly against patriarchal censorship within the community.

Whenever Muslim women raise their voices they are accused of playing into orientalist projects or the Hindu right.

When will you stop suspecting our motives and listen to what we have to say?

I think Sahiyo is reminding us to put our liberal education and economic freedoms to the right use. To speak up so that mindsets of our brothers and sisters change and our coming generations make true progress.

Let us not be known as women who quietly suffered from the practice of khafz and looked the other way when our sisters and daughters suffered too. Let us not be known as women who unquestioningly perpetuated the practice on our young girls. Rather let us be known as women who questioned a harmful practice, putting an end to it to begin a new chapter for themselves and the community for generations to come.

 

Khatna: A mother’s pain and a son’s search for retribution

By: Anonymous

Age: 31
Country: United States

My mother is a woman of faith. The innate cultism of the Bohra community has never dissuaded her from being a part of it, attending every function on the bright, colorful Hijri calendar. For decades, that bright calendar has served as a façade to hide inexcusable darkness. I’ve been distant from this community for some time. I’ve often voiced some of the blatant ironies of our sect, particularly with the Hijri calendar. Lailutal Qadr, the most holy night in Ramadan, is now a minor blip on it, largely overshadowed by the birthday of his holiness, Mufaddal Saifuddin, which falls on the same day. She does not take my criticisms lightly and always tells me to have an open mind. She pleads with me to forget the cultism for a minute and focus on the community, the spirituality, and the power of prayer. She’s always been pious to a fault, ignoring the many uncomfortable truths of a community that has so many.  

It made it shocking a couple months ago, when she expressed her anger and hostility towards Khatna. Sahiyo has cast a large spotlight on this tribal and destructive practice. Growing up in a household of all boys and in a community that’s kept Khatna so hidden, I only learned of the practice through Sahiyo and the articles by so many women whohave had the courage to discuss its indignities and the havoc it has caused in their lives.

But it hit home, when my mom told me about her own experiences. This deeply religious woman, who has been an advocate for the Bohra community her entire life and encouraged her children to look past certain practices, was not willing to overlook this one. She told my brother and I that if she had a daughter she would never have them undergo this procedure. She told us in excruciating detail about her own experience at the tender age of seven, when she was taken to a dark basement at a neighbor’s home in India. The pain, anger, and sexual frustrations she has suffered since then were self-evident from the tears building up in her eyes. I couldn’t hold back the tears in my own. The anger I felt when reading the stories of other women, rose to a fever pitch when I realized how much it hurt the woman that brought me in this world. A woman I have loved my entire life. She forgave this community and encouraged me to be a part of it. Because, for her generation, community is everything and the thought of becoming an outcast – that fear of being shunned from family and friends – makes you swallow your pain, frustration, and anger and accept the status quo.

No more.

The only beauty in the ugly underbelly surrounding Khatna, is the powerful options we have to confront it and other injustices of the Bohra community. For the first time in thirty years the powers that be are scared to the core. And it’s not just the fear of legal repercussions they will inevitably face in facilitating and encouraging genital mutilation. Their real fear lies in losing the plethora of financial benefits they have always valued – the envelopes filled with bundles of cash, the millions of dollars in Ziyafats, the houses, the cars, and financial control over thousands of small Bohri businesses. The more these injustices are pointed out, the more Bohris – specifically millennials – will go elsewhere for spiritual enlightenment. And with that financial loss, they can never sustain the lavish lifestyle they’ve grown so accustomed to.

But actions always speak louder than words. The first step, and it is imperative, is to find a special woman in your life affected by this practice. Sit down with that woman, talk to her, and understand what she’s been through. It will fill you with the same rage it filled me.

And that’s what we need – a whole lot of rage. We need people in our generation to be angry and to boycott this community unless it returns to serve the spiritual needs of the people it’s tasked with serving. That’s what a religious community can and should be.

I will never forget the pain I saw in my mother’s eyes the night she told me about her experience with Khatna. I will carry it with me moving forward and fight to make sure this practice ends. If we all do our part, it will stop, along with the other immoral practices of a community that has so many. All millennials should exercise the same vengeance. They can’t threaten to destroy our lives like they did to our parents. We hold all the cards here. We shouldn’t be afraid to play our collective strong hand.

How I learned that FGM happens in India

By: Anonymous journalist whose friend underwent FGM

Age: 26
Country: India

“It was supposed to stop me from me doing ‘those things’. I’m not sure if it served the purpose,” M told me.

I would have known about this practice much later if I hadn’t met someone who underwent it.

As we were getting to know each other, one day M drew my attention to the fact that she was different from other girls. That was when I heard the term female genital mutilation for the first time.

“You should read about genital mutilation”, she said.

Later that night, I learned about this horrible practice meant to oppress women. I had so many unanswered questions for her.

~ How did she become a part of this?

~ Explaining what happened to you to all your companions must be tiring…

~ Was everyone as sensitive as me when she told them about what had happened to her?

~ Why does a well-educated family still practice it?

I called her. That’s when I heard her story.

She told me that men don’t take part in ‘matters of female’. She was only six or seven when her maternal grandmother took her for khatna. She thought they were going for afternoon prayers until the point when an old lady laid her on a table and pulled her pants away. But the real terror struck when her legs were pulled apart. All reasoning was silenced just like her protest and this memory was repressed. What does a child know about right or wrong? If the elders do it, it must be for good. Right?

“Where was your mother when all of this was happening, did she even know?” I asked her.

M said, “I don’t know. She hadn’t joined me when it was done to me. I can’t imagine her watching me go through something like that.”

Her mother probably didn’t want to inflict the pain on her, and at the same time, her mother could see there was a flawed reasoning behind the practice. Her mother accepted that the tradition had to continue in silence.

Life went on as usual until M turned twenty. She was no longer a little girl. After she had sex for the first time, the repressed memories came up. She could no longer hide. She wondered, are my genitals different, am I different because of it?

M often felt she was not normal and even felt she was asexual.  It was not just the altering of her genitals that made her feel different, but the lack of understanding of her body as well.  

“Remember I would often wonder if I was asexual because of it? Well, those doubts are gone. I finally know I have the urge to have sex like anyone else,” M said to me to explain the doubts she had around her ability to orgasam.

She still remembers the first time her family openly talked about khatna. M was in college and an aunt was visiting from abroad. She heard her aunt speaking to her parents about the “mindless practice of female circumcision.” She joined the conversation, speaking publicly for the first time about her anger for having undergone it. But the conversation ended with her parents saying the following words “Daughter, you will understand later. It has to be done so that the girl doesn’t go out of hand.”

Like within most families in India, parents and their children do not speak about sexuality. She couldn’t let her family know she was sexually active. I sense that because parents see pre-marital sex as wrong, this idea has a very big role in the continuation of the practice. Therefore, while addressing FGM we can’t separate it from the need for sex education. Sex education must also include sensitizing the emotional and psychological aspects of sex as well.

“How can we bring an end to all this?” I asked her the last time we spoke.

“One thing is for certain,” M said. “I am not making my daughter go through this.”

Her decision is significant. Pledging not to continue it on the next generation is important, particularly when perhaps twenty years ago, many women never made this pledge.

“Will you ever talk publicly about it?” I asked her.

“I don’t know”, she said, “It’s not like I’m not trying to make any difference. I just feel I’m not ready to be public and deal with the attention I would get afterwards.”

Her answer made me realize that the people who are affected by the reckless act are not the only anchors of social change. We needed to focus equally on institutions that allowed such harmful traditions to continue.

Speaking to the religious heads about FGM is important. The most crucial aspect of reforming this age-old practice is educating people. Simply banning it by law is not the solution because this may lead some families to carry out khatna in secret, on their own.

She said, “Today’s young priests who get more educated think like us. I’m sure if they are encouraged to bring about changes, it will have a larger impact on the community.”

As a journalist, I’m sharing the story of my friend, because I believe media’s role is critical in achieving social justice, and helping to get those larger institutions to think about creating change.

‘Girls must be circumcised or they will grow up loose’: Three Sri Lankan women talk about Female Genital Cutting

by: Bintari Hamza Zafar, a concerned Sri Lankan Muslim citizen

Country: Sri Lanka

Female Genital Mutilation is a serious problem in Sri Lanka. Almost all Sri Lankan Muslim women are circumcised. Both Moors and Malays (ethnic Muslim communities in Sri Lanka) are of the Shafi school of Islam which regards female circumcision, or “sunnat”, as compulsory. They account for 98% of the local Muslim population. The Bohras who follow an Indian leader called Syedna also practice it very strictly. Local Bohras number about 10,000 people.

The All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama (ACJU) which is the Supreme Council of Muslims of Sri Lanka has declared female circumcision obligatory in a fatwa in Tamil பெண்களுக்கு கத்னா செய்தல் (Pengalukku Khatna Seydal) and are very strict about it. I also heard that the Bohra leader Syedna has said it must be done.

Local Muslim girls are circumcised on the 40th day of birth or a little later. Bohra girls are cut between 7-10 years of age.

The amount of genital cutting differs from child to child. The operator is a woman called Ostha-maami. Usually, they nick the clitoris for a little blood to come and leave it at that. Educated families get it done by lady doctors who cut off part of the foreskin of the clitoris. But more severe mutilation also takes place and has been reported to us.

I give below some interviews that I recently conducted with women of my community.

Banu Mariyam (40 years, name changed)

Muslim girls must be circumcised or they will grow up to be loose. I have two daughters and got them circumcised when they were babies. The local Ostha woman came and did it. She took a large needle and pricked the clitoris till the blood came. She then wiped it and put some grey powder. I think it was ash.

She told me the blood has to come out or the girl’s clitoris will be big, and she will always touch there and grow up to be a loose woman. I don’t regret it. All our girls must be circumcised.

See Western ladies, see Princess Diana, how many men she had affairs with. Our women are much more decent. That is because we take the blood out and make it small. Then they can control themselves.

Fathima Nilufa (33 years, name changed)

I did not know of this practice till my daughter was born. My mother said she must undergo sunnat. I told her only boys undergo sunnat. She said no, girls also. Then she brought home the lady doctor, who cut my daughter. My baby cried a lot. The doctor put some kind of white powder on the wound and said it will heal.

Later I noticed baby’s clitoris was pink and swollen. I got angry and asked the doctor what she had done. She said she removed the skin over it like she did for the small boys. She said nothing to worry. It healed a little later. She is ok now, but I am still angry because my daughter was hurt. I don’t know why they do it. My mother said it must be done for Muslim people.

Sameena Begum (29 years, name changed)

I was married to an Aalim (religious scholar). A few days after my wedding night, he said he wanted to see my private part before having sex. Then he got angry and said I was not circumcised. He even shouted at my mother. My mother kept saying she had got me circumcised as a baby, but he did not listen.

He brought home an old Ostha-Maami in a taxi and ordered her to cut me. My husband held one leg and forced my mother to hold the other leg while the Ostha-Maami cut me. My mother was crying and told me not to scream as the neighbours could hear. It was very painful. I wish my mother had got it done properly when I was a baby.

Announcement: A new research project on Khatna in Mumbai

by Keire Murphy and Cleo Egli

An exciting new research project is being undertaken in Mumbai and its environs this summer which hopes to bring a new perspective to the international discussion of khatna. The project, which is a cultural study on khatna, the Bohra community, and the current activist movement against the practice, is being carried out by Keire Murphy from Trinity College Dublin and Cleo Egli from University of North Carolina, who have been awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Fellowship in order to complete the project.

It will be interesting to see how an entirely external perspective engages with the Bohra culture and cultural specificities of khatna, which is so distinct from the practice portrayed in Western media. The stated goal of the project is to explore and understand not just the practice but also the culture (or cultures) of the Bohra community. The researchers hope that this will enable them to make recommendations to activists coming from outside of the community hoping to work on this issue on how to engage with this issue in a culturally sensitive and culturally specific way.

Murphy and Egli claim to have undertaken this project because of the lack of research that has been engaged in not only on the subject of khatna but also on the Bohra community itself, which they believe is an essential step to effecting lasting social and cultural change. For them, “In order to change, we must first understand”. The women want to explore the identities of the members, particularly the female members, who comprise the Dawoodi Bohra community, how the community defines itself, the tensions and divisions within the community as well as its unifying factors. They want to explore the “beauty and pride of the community in order to better understand its controversial underside.” They are particularly interested in exploring the current movement within the community, led by SAHIYO and Bohra women; how the movement is perceived by the people it is aimed at and what factors are integral for a woman deciding whether to continue the long-standing tradition or face the possible repercussions of breaking with the ancient mould; and what distinguishes a woman who simply doesn’t continue the practice from a woman who goes further and actively campaigns against it.

This project will hopefully be a significant stepping stone to bringing global humanitarian and academic attention to this issue that has often been overshadowed by African practices that, although put in the same category globally, so little resemble the experience of the Dawoodi Bohra. This project is also hoping to act as a precursor and guide for the more comprehensive studies that this issue deserves. This is an incredibly important time for the Bohra community both within India and Pakistan and abroad, with media attention being dramatically drawn to the issue by the highly publicised arrests of practitioners of khatna in the United States. The community may be facing a large amount of media attention in the coming years and it is the aim of this project to provide the members of the community with an opportunity to set the story straight from the beginning about who they are.

The study will take place in Mumbai from the June 24 to July 23, 2017, and researchers are calling for research participants, both in Mumbai on these dates, or in other parts of India from July 24 to the August 7. They also have an open call without date restrictions for participants who would like to engage in interviews over Skype. Participants can be male or female, and do not have to speak of their experience of khatna if they would prefer not to.

All Bohras are encouraged to participate, so that the research will be representative of all groups and opinions in the community. Submissions are also welcome, but interviews will be given more weight. All interested parties should contact mgfmumbai@gmail.com.

A part-time translator job opportunity is also available. To view job description, click here