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

Sahiyo Volunteer Spotlight: Lubaina Plumber

Lubaina Plumber is a U.S. based volunteer who has been with Sahiyo for a year now. She was a human rights lawyer in Mumbai who just graduated from Washington University School of Law, St Louis with her Masters in Law. She plans to continue her education in the field of public policy and management to build a career and life in which she can effectively support every cause believes in. To learn more about how she has supported our work at Sahiyo, read her interview below.Photo 2

  1. When did you first get involved with Sahiyo?

I got in touch with Zehra Patwa, whose article I read a few years ago and she, in turn, put me in touch with Mariya Taher. I spoke to Mariya about opportunities to work for the cause and began my journey, being involved with Sahiyo.

  1. What opportunities have you been involved with at Sahiyo?

I have written some articles, worked on a handbook and other material and actively participated on the Whatsapp group, set up the Instagram page, and try to do as much as time permits when the opportunity presents itself.

  1. How has your involvement impacted your life?

Working with an organization teaches one a lot about group involvement, support, and unity. Being involved with an organization that fights for a cause that is very personal for me, is like having a platform for your voice. Sahiyo has given me the gentle push and reminder to keep fighting for my cause, whether or not I see results immediately.

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

I am an advocate and fan of being involved with organizations that support the causes you believe in. Support is the best way of showing your concern and using your time wisely. I would say that people should be open-minded and not hesitate to raise questions — if there is something you don’t agree with, ask and you will receive answers. My personal experience has lead me to believe that Sahiyo respects their volunteers and their opinions as much as we do the cause and the fight for it.

Part-time Translator Job Opportunity in Mumbai

Looking for an individual willing to assist in translation between Gujarati and English, with a preference for those also able to speak Lisan al-Dawat, for the month of July in Mumbai and surrounding provinces.

Translator will be working closely with two student researchers from the University of North Carolina and Trinity College Dublin who will be conducting research on the Dawoodi Bohra community via interviews with different members of the Dawoodi Bohra community.

Familiarity with the community and culture of Dawoodi Bohras is strongly preferred, as ideally the translator would help the student researchers by helping coordinate interviews and acting as a liaison between community members and researchers.

Pay will start at ₹ 250 / hour, with an average of 10-15 hours per week of work available. Pay and hours very flexible.

To express interest or for further information, please email CV to: mgfmumbai@gmail.com

 

U.S. Muslim Leaders Stance on FGM/C (also known as Female Circumcision)

(Originally document can be found here. Republished with permission on 6/7/2017)

We, Muslim organizations, FGM/C Survivors, Islamic scholars, and leaders, strongly condemn the remarks made in the video of Imam Shaker El Sayed where he clearly distinguishes between Female Genital Mutilation or Cutting (FGM/C) and female circumcision, and recommends  the performance of female circumcision on young girls “when needed” to prevent them from becoming “hyper-sexual”.  We commend Dar Al Hijrah on their response to these remarks condemning FGM/C.  To further clarify, FGM/C is the same as female circumcision.  When we refer to FGM/C, we are including female circumcision which falls within the definition of this practice. More than half a million women and girls living in the U.S are at risk of undergoing FGM/C both in the U.S. or abroad or have already undergone the procedure, including 169,000 girls under the age of 18, creating a clear urgency for action.  The following presents our stance on the issue of FGM/C:

  1. FGM/C includes all forms of excision of the female genitalia. FGM/C is known as female circumcision, but they are the same practice.  There is no reference to FGM/C in the Holy Quran and the practice is against Islamic doctrine. 
  2. According to the World Health Organization guidance from 2016, FGM/C has no health benefits and serves no medical purpose.  All forms of FGM/C can cause lifelong physical, psychological and spiritual harm to the young girls forced to endure this.  Because FGM/C causes harm, it is prohibited under Islam.  Examples include:
    • Physical harm: This includes health complications such as severe pain: excessive bleeding: general infections;  urinary tract infections; wound healing problems; injury to surrounding genital tissue; menstrual problems (painful menstruations, difficulty in passing menstrual blood, etc.); sexual problems (pain during intercourse, decreased satisfaction, etc.); increased risk of childbirth complications; the recurring  need for additional surgeries; and death
    • Psychological harm: This includes mental illness diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder/ low self-esteem
    • Spiritual harm: This includes tension on one’s spiritual relationship with God and with one self; detachment from the spiritually-ordained sexual self; strain of physical and mental harm on one’s spiritual connection; feeling ostracized from one’s community as a result of feeling unworthy and ashamed
  1. Islam is a religion rooted in social justice.  Arguing that FGM/C is recommended to curb the sexuality or so-called “hyper-sexuality” in females is wrong.  Islam supports the sexual health of both males and females, and controlling female sexuality is a form of patriarchy, not Islam.
  1. We would like to reiterate that all forms of FGM/C are against the law in the United States. Federal Law makes it illegal to perform FGM/C in all its forms, including female circumcision on girls in the U.S  or to transport a girl out of the U.S to have FGM/C performed in another country. In addition, 25 states in the U.S, including the state of Virginia,  also have laws against FGM/C.

We would like to make clear that FGM/C  is a universally recognized human rights abuse.  It is a form of child abuse, sexual assault, and gender-based violence.

We, the undersigned, unequivocally stand against the practice of FGM/C. We cannot and will not stand for any leader who endorses human rights abuses antithetical to our beautiful faith.

We call on all Muslim organizations to provide sexual/ reproductive health education and sexual violence awareness trainings to ensure that leaders are well equipped to serve the needs of their community. Muslim organizations must provide access to both accurate information and support resources on FGM/C and create safe spaces where open conversations about FGM/C and sexual health can take place and FGM/C survivors can share their stories and have their voices heard without judgment.

Every one of us has a moral responsibility to work toward creating safer communities for our children. Support for this unjust practice under the guise of religion has gone on too long. Today, we invite you to join us in facilitating this change in the following ways:

  1. Speak up when you hear someone promoting FGM/C in the community
  2. Share information and raise awareness in mosques and other community centers
  3. Link up with other service providers to be up to date with latest policies, legislations and referral systems in your state
  4. Be visible and engage at various inter generational, multi-sectoral forums
  5. Make a commitment to educating yourself,  your families , and your communities on sexual & reproductive health and sexual violence in general, and reach out to social workers, and other expert organizations when necessary

Organizations that are equipped to facilitate these activities and conversations are: Dahlia Project, Face of Defiance, Safe Hands for Girls, Global Campaign to End FGM, Sahiyo, WeSpeakOut, HEART Women & Girls, and RAHMA. These organizations can be reached at:

Sahiyo – info@sahiyo.com

WeSpeakOut – info@wespeakout.org

HEART – info@heartwomenandgirls.org

Global Campaign to End FGM – Naimah@globalmediacampaign.com 

RAHMA – info@haverahma.org

Dahlia Project – Leylatheraphy@hotmail.co.uk

Face of Defiance – Leylatheraphy@hotmail.co.uk

Safe Hands for Girls – info@safehandsforgirls.org

DAH statement:

1- The harmful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is prohibited in Islam as well as the laws of the land.

2- We at Dar Al-Hijrah, DO NOT condone, promote, or support any practice of FGM.

3- The reference to “Hyper-sexuality” is offensive and it is unequivocally rejected. The Board of Directors is particularly disturbed by such comments.

4- We call upon the Muslim Scholars (clergy) to be on the forefront of the campaign against FGM and to condemn silence in the face of these harmful practices.

5- We at Dar Al-Hijrah, are committed to continue sensitivity training of our staff regarding these critical issues.

The Imam of Dar Al-Hijrah, Sh. Shaker Elsayed, in response to his recent statements reaffirms that, “FGM is very harmful to women’s health, and anything in Islam that is harmful is in fact prohibited”.  He also advises the community to seek their doctors counsel to inform them why it is illegal and harmful. He follows that his reference to “hyper-sexuality” is an observation that he admits he should have avoided. He declares, “I take it back, and I do apologize to all those who are offended by it”.

You may refer to Imam Shaker’s statement below.


Statement of clarification
By Imam Shaker Elsayed

On May 19th, 2017, I gave a lecture about the rights of children in Islam at Dar Al-Hijrah. The lecture was aired live online and was later posted on our YouTube channel. The part in which I talked about children’s circumcision created a lot of misunderstanding, specifically regarding girls. I would like to clarify the following:

  1. I specifically said in the lecture that Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is considered by Islam to be a very harmful to women’s sexual health. And in Islam anything harmful is prohibited. Therefore, Islam agrees completely with the legal prohibition of FGM, and hence the laws of USA. That is why I referred the audience to their OBGYN to inform them why it is illegal and harmful.
  2. Islam would never support anything that harms anybody’s well-being, such as FGM. As such, this is my position and the position of Dar Al-Hijrah. The Prophet (PBUH) said: “Let there be no harm upon yourself or others.”
  3. Regarding the statement I made on “Hyper-sexuality”, I admit that I should have avoided it. I hereby take it back. And I do apologize to all those who are offended by it. 

Signed By:

Imam Mohamed Magid, All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center

Imam Johari Abdul- Malik, Director of Outreach, Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center

Imam Suhaib Webb, SWISS

Imam Khalid Latif, Executive Director, The Islamic Center at NYU

Imam Jamal Rahman, Interfaith Community Sanctuary, WA

Khadijah Abdullah, RAHMA

Zehra Patwa, WeSpeakOut

Farzana Doctor, WeSpeakOut

Alifya Sulemanji, WeSpeakOut

Mariya Taher, Sahiyo

Leyla Hussein, Dahlia Project

Jaha Mapenzi Dukureh, Safe Hands for Girls

Sister Linda Sarsour, New York, NY

Safia Abulaila, Resident in Counseling, VA.

Ilana Alazzeh, Muslims Against Homophobia

Salam Al-Marayati, Muslim Public Affairs Council

Laila Al-Marayati, Muslim Women’s League

Eman Hassaballa Aly, Collaboryst

Shahed Amanullah, Affinis Labs

Dr. Saman Hamidi-Azar, Orange County, CA

Yasmine Badaoui, Miss Muslim

Alejandro Beutel, Washington, DC

Maha Elgenaidi, Director, Islamic Networks Group (ING)

Seemi Ghazi, Lecturer in Classical Arabic, U. Of British Columbia, Vancouver Canada

Nadia Hassan, Young Leaders Institute

Khalil Ismail, Finding Peace Project

Ameena Jandali, Islamic Networks Group (ING)
Ghada Khan,
Washington, DC

Maryam Khan, Community Leader, Islamic Center of Connecticut in Windsor

Youssef Kromah, Do it for the Deen

Edina Lekovic, Muslim Public Affairs Council

Jenan Matari, Miss Muslim

Priscilla Martinez, Salam Mama

Dr. Karen McDonnell, Washington, DC

Nadiah Mohajir, HEART Women and Girls

Naeem Muhammad, Native Deen

Muhammad Oda, Muzbnb

Riham Osman, Muslim Public Affairs Council

Angela Peabody, Founder/Executive Director, Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation

Tynan Power, Founder/Leader, Masjid Al-Inshirah

Sameera Qureshi, HEART Women and Girls

Asifa Quraishi-Landes, Madison, WI

Mariam Rauf, Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project

Hadi Shakuur, Muzbnb

Sis Sarah Smith, Pennsylvania, USA

Hanaa Soltan, Mideast Global Advisors

Hussain Turk, Esq., Los Angeles HIV Law & Policy Project

Asma Uddin, AltMuslimah

Despite backlash, Sahiyo will continue to work with the community

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s guidelines on the management of health complications from female genital mutilation/cutting states that the “involvement of health-care providers in performing FGM is likely to confer a sense of legitimacy on the practice and could give the impression that the procedure is good for women’s health, or at least that it is harmless.” Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening in India. It is difficult to rationalize how a medical professional who has taken a Hippocratic Oath to “…abstain from all intentional wrongdoing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free,” can promote khatna in India.

In one part of the world doctors from our community are tried for violating the laws of their country (United States and Australia), and then we have doctors in India who are using the argument of religious freedom to advocate for a practice that is performed for non-medical reasons on a non-consenting minor girl. We have seen letters issued by various jamaats across the world, who use the hadeeth: حُبُّ الْوَطَنِ مِنَ الإِيمَانِ (Hubbul-Watan Min al-Eemaan), which translates to “Love of one’s homeland (country) is from faith”, to denounce the practice. Contrary to this, we have supporters of khatna, in India, who wish to continue with the archaic custom, despite the Indian government taking a stand and stating laws, the Indian Penal Code and the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, against the practice. These are inconsistencies and we question them.

Opposition to khatna is not at all unexpected. We had anticipated it, at some level, looked forward to being able to engage in a healthy exchange of views on a democratic platform. Unfortunately, in the last week, the premise of the opposition we have heard is based on half-truths. The fact that such strong opposition exists shows that our efforts to engage the community have led people to discuss the matter and question the practice. Sahiyo will continue to work with the community to bring an end to the practice in a proactive way.

We add that that this practice is not only continued by Dawoodi Bohras. There are those from other South Asian communities who have spoken out against it too. Sahiyo focuses on engaging these communities, as well,  but clearly, the largest group Sahiyo continues to engage is the Dawoodi Bohra community. We draw strength from knowing the high levels of education of women within the Dawoodi Bohras and are very hopeful that with a healthy dialogue we can re-evaluate this practice in the present day and come up with a solution that is in the best interests of all children and women.

Last but not least, we would like to say that Sahiyo is saddened to be a target of deliberate slander, especially when the messages being passed around on WhatsApp and other social media platforms are blatantly untrue. To clarify a few doubts – Sahiyo has not started a petition addressed to the Syedna and we have not filed the PIL to ban khatna in India, either. We are only trying to engage with the community to break the silence around a practice we see as a violation of child rights and human rights. We are trying to ensure that the community is able to take an informed view on a rite of passage that can be, and sometimes is, harmful to children.

We have always welcomed healthy discussion and now, more than ever, we think it is critical to be able to engage in a mature conversation on the subject. This is what we are trying to do through our advocacy campaign, Each One Reach One 2 that has been jointly launched with WeSpeakOut this Ramzan. The campaign will create means of effective communication to discuss the subject of khatna amongst various stakeholders. We hope that our brothers and sisters are able to use these and debate the issue to be able to understand the long-term and short-term pros and cons of this practice, rather than let emotion and religion alone influence their decision-making.

Announcing Each One Reach One 2: Let’s discuss Khatna this Ramzan

EACH ONE REACH ONE 2:
Taking the conversation forward….
Ramzan 2017
A campaign by Sahiyo and We Speak Out

In this holy month of Ramzan, we invite you to participate in Each One Reach One 2, the second edition of a global campaign to promote conversations around Khatna among Bohras.

Last year, in February 2016, Sahiyo and Speak Out on FGM (now We Speak Out) launched the first edition of Each One Reach One, a campaign to help break the silence around the practice of Khatna, Khafz or Female Genital Cutting (FGC) in the Bohra community. For one month, we encouraged each one of you to have a conversation about Khatna with at least one other Bohra — a friendly, respectful, non-judgmental conversation that would help us all understand one another.

A year down the line, we can say with confidence that the silence around Khatna has definitely been broken. The recent arrests of Bohra doctors in the United States have encouraged debate and introspection, both within and beyond the community. There is greater visibility in the media regarding FGC among Bohras. Legal efforts at ending this practice have led to a call for consultations from the Women and Child Development Ministry in India. Although we have achieved last year’s objective of starting a conversation around Khatna, there is a lot more work to be done.

Today is the first day of Each One Reach One 2, our month-long outreach campaign that coincides with Ramzan. This campaign calls upon everyone, especially Bohra women and men, to reach out to at least one other Bohra to engage in a meaningful discussion around Khatna. Our focus this year is to move the conversation forward, by exploring ways to respectfully and sensitively engage in discussions with our family, friends and the wider community.

As you have seen through reactions to our work on social media, we are still received by many within our community with hostility and contempt. It is important for us to continue to respond to criticism with love and tolerance. Sahiyo and We Speak Out have been accused of shouting over Bohra women’s voices. We want to remind our community that we provide a platform to those who have been silenced, so that everyone who wants to speak has an opportunity to share their story. We hope to connect, not divide; to engage, not shut out; to listen, not mute; to reach out, not polarise; and to love, not hate.

Our campaign for EORO 2 focuses on guiding you to have meaningful conversations in various scenarios within and outside your families. Through our communication guides, we will suggest open-ended questions that you may ask your loved ones in order to engage in a sensitive discussion. As usual, we will also complement these guides with the relevant facts around Khatna. We encourage Bohras within India and abroad to participate in our campaign. Do continue to watch this space over the next month as we publish our guides.

To begin with, you can read our basic guide to effective conversations by clicking here.

Our conversation guide is informed by the concept of “Pro-Voice”, a word coined by the founders of abortion-rights group Exhale. Being Pro-Voice is about listening to one another’s stories with empathy, without an agenda or judgement. Learn more about Pro-Voice through this TED talk.

We would like to wish each one of you a blessed Ramzan full of fasting, prayer, forgiveness and charity. In keeping with the spirit of this sacred month, we encourage you to listen with love, speak with kindness, think without anger, and love without judgment.

As you participate in Each One Reach One 2, feel free to reach out to us at info@sahiyo.com or info@wespeakout.org to share your experiences, questions, perspectives and feedback.

We must find culturally sensitive methods to end FGC and protect girls from further trauma

Picture an innocent, 7-year-old girl being led to an unfamiliar room.  She is made to lie down, her underpants removed, and a piece of her cut away; familiar hands around her upholding an age-old tradition.

Perhaps she is in pain. Perhaps she is not. She might feel betrayed, scared, angry, or upset. She might want to run away from the people who are albeit familiar to her, but who have put her in an extremely traumatic situation.

Now picture this same girl once again, made to lie in a an equally unfamiliar room, her underpants removed, her private parts probed by a doctor, who is looking for the scar from the piece that was cut away from her; these concerned hands are trying to build a case to condemn the ones who caused her the original pain.

The girl is once again in pain, but this time it may not be just a physical pain. She is again angry, scared, and confused. And this time, she probably wants to run back to those who are familiar to her, to save her from the trauma of reliving that memory.

The above two scenarios sadly highlight the unfortunate situation that innocent Bohra girls in the US are reportedly in. The girls are possibly feeling trapped, fearful, and vulnerable, because once again they are being forced to relive their trauma of undergoing Khatna.

Recently, Female Genital Cutting or Khatna prevalent in the Dawoodi Bohra community came onto the federal radar in the US because of the arrest of a doctor associated with the practice in Detroit, Michigan. This arrest was followed by a few more arrests leading to subsequent intervention by Michigan’s Child Protection Services who reportedly picked up children for further questioning.

While we need law to make clear that FGC is a human rights violation, and we need legal aid to further efforts towards preventing FGC from occurring in the first place, subjecting a child to a double scrutiny of sorts may not be the best practice if we keep the interests of the child in mind.

For instance, one has to understand that Bohra-style Khatna can be difficult to establish in a medical examination, because Type 1 or Type 4 (which Bohras typically perform) do not necessarily leave physical scars. The girl may have lost a thin layer of her prepuce, or she may have been pricked, slit or rubbed, in which case subjecting them to medical check-ups is not going to prove anything, and may, in fact, cause them trauma when previously they may not have been particularly traumatized.

Additionally, carrying out a witch hunt on all the mothers, possibly separating the girls from their parents, and asking for a ‘permanent termination’ of rights to parenting, are all methods that might force the Dawoodi Bohra community into believing that they are being targeted unfairly, and these actions might make them distrustful of law enforcement officials.

Moreover, the child might view the authorities trying to protect her as her worst enemy, because they separated her from her parents and everything that is comfortable and familiar to her. She might also feel pangs of guilt if her testimony leads to her mother’s arrest. After all, no child wants to be the reason for a family’s disruption.

There is no doubt that the US government is doing exceptionally well in investigating the case, and ensuring that the laws of their land are rightfully upheld. Nevertheless, Sahiyo does feel that there are certain realities, which if understood and implemented correctly, could make the process of serving justice less painful for the child. For instance, what could be explored is how to gain insight around culturally appropriate and sensitive forms of outreach from the people and agencies who are knowledgeable in working with the community.

Since its inception, Sahiyo’s philosophy has been to engage the members of the community and seek their help to end this harmful practice. So we ask now, could an alternate approach be found that acknowledges Khatna as a harmful tradition that must be discontinued, but simultaneously recognizes that parents’ intentions for continuing it are not necessarily malicious? Or, could there be a more educative, community-involved approach to tackling FGC which recognizes it as a social norm that unfortunately has been passed down through generations of a community? Could state-organized counseling sessions for the parents and children be an alternative to punitive punishments?

We ask these questions because we acknowledge that to truly end FGC in the Dawoodi Bohra community, we must find methods that will not cause further trauma for the child, but at the same time, continue to move the community forward towards abandoning this undesirable and harmful practice.

Thaal Pe Charcha: A Sahiyo flagship event where Bohra women bonded over food

In February, Sahiyo held an event titled Thaal Pe Charcha (loosely translated as ‘discussions over food’), in which 16 Bohra women from Mumbai came together to discuss – for the first time – the challenges of living as young girls and women in the tightly knit Dawoodi Bohra community.

TPC pic

Invitations were sent out through word of mouth, and 16 women in their 20s and 30s signed up for the unique event. A few came with their friends, two with young children, one with their family member, while others ventured alone, but all of them attended Thaal Pe Charcha with a desire to bond with other women from the community and discuss a variety of issues affecting their lives.

Over a traditional Bohra lunch (one mithaas, one kharaas) the women opened up with their opinions on topics such as the pressure to marry early, the extreme control exercised by religious authorities on family life, the fear of social boycott and the consequent lack of freedom to speak out against social norms.

What was evident during the three hours of food and bonding was shared sense of pride the women felt about being able to stand up for themselves within their families – to stand up for their right to an education of their choice, to choose a certain career or spouse, or to have their own set of individual beliefs.

Sahiyo will be organizing more Thaal Pe Charcha events in Mumbai during the course of the year, for Bohra women of different age groups. If you are interested in attending a Thaal Pe Charcha event and would like to be kept informed, mail us at info@sahiyo.com

After all, why should all charcha happen over chai?

Four American survivors of FGC speak out

Four American survivors of Female Genital Cutting have broken the culture of silence around the issue through a new video. These women, from diverse backgrounds, illustrate that FGC is not restricted to any one geography, religion, or socioeconomic class.

The four women featured in the video produced by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Information Programs include Renee Bergstrom, F.A. Cole, Aissata Camara, and Sahiyo co-founder Mariya Taher.

In order to realize the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ending FGC by 2030, we need not only more courageous survivors need to speak out, but we also need religious leaders, men and boys, health practitioners, and young people to join the global campaign. To watch the video, click here.

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Detroit FGM/C case: Why two more arrests have left me feeling bittersweet

By: Anonymous

Country: United Kingdom
Age: 32

Today is a bittersweet day.

The news of two more arrests linked to the first FGM case in the US has left me torn between elation and sadness; while a part of me feels like justice is being served to those who perform, aid and abet FGM, another part of me is saddened by the effect that these arrests have had on the perception of the community and Islam.

Gone are the days when I would tell people that I belonged to the Dawoodi Bohra community and would receive the response, “Oh, the women who wear the colourful clothes with embroidery?” Now, I hear “Oh, isn’t that the community that practices FGM? I read about them in the paper.”

I scroll down after reading an article online about the current FGM cases and read horrible comment after comment. Heinous things are being said about not only the Dawoodi Bohra community, but also about the wider community of Muslims, the majority of whom condemn FGM. These prosecutions are being used as the fuel to fire Islamophobia, and hurtful attacks are being made on the religion that over a billion people worldwide adhere to.

Other Muslims are distancing themselves from the Dawoodi Bohra community, calling us insular and saying that we stick to ourselves. I feel a further isolation from people who believe in the same God as me and also pray towards Makkah.

While I think of all of the girls and women, including myself, who suffered through this barbaric procedure, I also think of the girls who are now in protective custody, or whose mother is currently behind bars. Those children were and are innocent, and are now suffering due to the criminal actions of their parents.

I question who is at fault here. While the authorities are prosecuting those who are performing, covering up and facilitating FGM, those who endorse and encourage the procedure, both privately and publicly, remain unaffected. There are still articles being posted that defend the Dawoodi Bohra community as being comprised of law-abiding citizens, yet murmurs of FGM fill the walls of masjids throughout the US and other countries where FGM is categorically outlawed. The first step to solving a problem is admitting that a problem exists in the first place, and it seems that there are some in the community who are not prepared to take this step.

I feel a tenseness in the air; I quietly discuss this case among close friends and relatives who share my sentiments, frightened to openly voice my happiness that there is yet another breakthrough in ending this practice. I feel the heavy hand of the community leaders bear down upon me, and feel stifled to openly express my feelings. This is the fear that prevents others to come forward. It is real and it is suffocating.