Malaysian NGO Asian Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) and British charity Orchid Project are jointly developing a new Asia Network to End FGM/C, to strengthen movements to end the practice of FGC in Asian communities.
To shape this network and its priorities, all interested organisations, activists, and stakeholders working in the region on FGM/C or related issues in Asia are invited to fill out this consultation survey. The closing date for this survey will be 22nd December 2019.
On Nov 4, 2019, Sahiyo’s co-founder Mariya Taher took part in a round-table session at the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) Annual Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to discuss the Voices to End FGM/C project. Participants were able to view a sample of the digital stories created by survivors. They were also able to learn how by utilizing participatory storytelling methods, we can educate communities, health professionals, and policymakers on female genital cutting. For more information, visit APHA’s website.
Every Tuesday following Black Friday, millions of people around the United States give back to support non-profit organizations that they believe in. This year we are inviting you to support Sahiyo’s groundbreaking work to end female genital cutting.
Your generous support is absolutely vital, as so much of what we do is donation-based and dependent on your financial contributions.
Thanks to your support, this year we were able to conduct two Voices to End FGM/C workshops in North Carolina and Washington, D.C. At these workshops, 20 individuals affected by FGM/C were able to create digital stories of their experiences that will be used to educate communities on the harms of the practice, and potentially protect future generations of girls from undergoing it. Thank you for making those workshops possible with your financial support!
We are excited about spreading awareness through these new digital stories, but we can’t stop there! We have big plans for the coming year(s) and need your help with fulfilling these goals.
If each of our supporters gave $25 to this Giving Tuesday campaign, we would reach our goal of raising $10,000 for more Voices to End FGM/C workshops. Please consider a donation of $25 or more today!
A donation of $25 will support our work in various ways:
Help pay for participants to host their own community events meant to raise awareness of FGC by showing their films created at the workshops
Help pay for participant’s travel to and from the workshop
Promote the new digital stories on Sahiyo’s social media platforms
Find out more information and make your contribution here!
On November 14, after a year of silence on the female genital mutilation/ cutting (FGM/C) case pending before it, the Supreme Court of India mentioned that the case will be referred to a seven-judge Constitution bench. It is likely that the case will now be heard in conjunction with three other petitions dealing with women’s rights and freedom of religion: cases about Hindu women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple, Muslim women’s entry into mosques, and the entry of Parsi women married to non-Parsis into fire temples.
Previously, in its September 2018 order, the Court had referred the FGC case to a five-judge Constitution bench. Since then, the case had been pending.
On November 14, however, the Supreme Court brought up the FGC case while hearing a batch of review petitions in the case about Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, where women of menstruating age were traditionally not allowed to enter. The review petitions challenged the Court’s 2018 order which lifted the ban on women’s entry into the temple.
In its November 14 judgement, a five-judge Supreme Court ruled that the debate on women’s entry into the temple overlapped with other cases about gender and religious rights that are pending before the Court, including women’s entry into mosques and fire temples and female genital mutilation/cutting among Dawoodi Bohras. It stated that a larger bench first needs to rule on the interpretation of the very principles governing the fundamental right to freedom of religion in the Constitution, before passing judgement on all of those cases from different communities.
The implications of clubbing these various cases under one umbrella are yet to be seen, but the Court’s judgement does raise some concerns.
Although these cases share the common theme of women’s rights within religion, the cultural ritual of cutting minor girls’ genitals is very different in substance from the rules restricting women’s entry into places of worship. It would be ideal if each of these issues are evaluated separately, on a case-by-case basis.
Sahiyo believes that the matter of FGC needs to be treated with a little more urgency. Fourteen months have already passed since the Supreme Court first referred the FGC case to a Constitution bench last year. That bench was never formed, and now the Court’s decision to first adjudicate on larger questions of law is likely to stall hearings that may have been scheduled in the FGC case.
Since the practice of FGC involves causing bodily harm to young girls, every delay puts more girls at risk of being cut.
A quick recap of the FGC case
In April 2017, Delhi-based lawyer Sunita Tiwari filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking a ban on the practice of female genital cutting (also known as khatna, khafz, sunnath or female circumcision) in India. FGC is practiced among the Dawoodi Bohras and other Bohra sects in India, as well as among certain Sunni Muslims in the state of Kerala. Tiwari’s PIL, however, refers only to FGC among the Dawoodi Bohras.
After Tiwari’s PIL was admitted in the Court, other intervention petitions were also filed in the case, some supporting a ban on the ancient practice, and one party (the Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom) defending FGC on the grounds that it is an essential religious practice for the Bohras. The Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association demanded that the matter of FGC be heard by a Constitution bench since it was about the Constitutional right to religious freedom.
The case was heard by a three-judge bench which observed during a hearing in July 2018, that the “bodily integrity of women” cannot be violated. However, in September 2018, the bench referred the case to a five-judge Constitution bench. This meant that the practice of cutting a girl’s genitals — which the United Nations classifies as a human rights violation — would now be scrutinised through the lens of religious freedom.
In light of the latest Supreme Court judgement, this will continue to be the case, except that now a larger, seven-judge bench will first examine the interpretation of Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution pertaining to the right to religious freedom, before adjudicating on matters of FGC and women’s entry into places of worship.
What the Court said: Majority and Minority judgements
The Supreme Court’s judgement on November 14 was not unanimous. Three of the five judges on the bench delivered the majority judgement, in favour of referring the Sabarimala, FGC and other cases to a seven-judge Constitution bench. This 9-page majority judgement was authored by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
The other two judges (Justices Nariman and Chandrachud) authored an elaborate 68-page dissent, insisting that there was no merit to the review petitions in the Sabarimala case and that the other cases of FGC, mosque entry or fire temple entry should not be clubbed together with the Sabarimala issue.
The majority judgement stated the following:
“The issues arising in the pending cases regarding entry of Muslim Women in Durgah/Mosque;…of Parsi Women married to a non-Parsi in the Agyari;…and including the practice of female genital mutilation in Dawoodi Bohra community…may be overlapping and covered by the judgment under review. The prospect of the issues arising in those cases being referred to larger bench cannot be ruled out…The decision of a larger bench would put at rest recurring issues touching upon the rights flowing from Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India.”
The majority judgement specified that the larger bench would essentially have to answer seven questions about the principles of Articles 25 and 26. These questions include these four points:
What is the interplay between Constitutional freedom of religion and other rights granted in the Constitution, particularly the right to equality and prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, sex, race, caste, etc?
What exactly does “constitutional morality” mean?
To what extent can the Court determine whether a practice is essential to a religion or a religious denomination?
To what extent can the Court give judicial recognition to Public Interest Litigations questioning religious practices if the PIL has been filed by someone who does not belong to the religious denomination in question? (The original PIL in the FGC case in India was filed by Sunita Tiwari, who does not belong to an FGC-practicing community.)
In their dissenting minority judgement, however, Justices Nariman and Chandrachud pointed out that the meaning of “constitutional morality” has already been defined by the Court in several other Constitution bench judgements, and that it is “nothing but the values inculcated by the Constitution, which are contained in the Preamble read with various other parts, in particular, Parts III [fundamental rights] and IV [fundamental duties] thereof.”
This means that the fundamental right to equality is a part of constitutional morality, and as per Article 25 and 26, freedom of religion is subject to this morality.
The minority judgement also argued that the review petitions they were addressing specifically dealt with the question of Hindu women’s entry into Sabarimala, and that the cases pertaining to other religions or religious sects should be examined on a case-by-case basis, instead of clubbing them together.
Every 11 seconds a girl somewhere in the world will go through female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C.) The procedure is often extremely painful, and carried out with a crude, unsterilized instrument and without anesthesia. Every 11 seconds.
FGM/C has no medical benefits, and often has disastrous effects, including a lifetime of psychological trauma, difficulty urinating and menstruating, maternal and child mortality, lack of sexual fulfilment, and sometimes, most tragically, the loss of a girl’s life afterwards.
This violation of a girl’s fundamental human rights has no place in the world today. It must stop. Now.
Last June at the Women Deliver Conference held in Vancouver, for the first time, global FGM/C activists from Africa to Europe, from Australia to Asia and to North America; women and men, civil society organisations, champions, survivors, and grassroots representatives, all came together to unite voices around a global call to action to end FGM.
Together, we are asking, no imploring, the international community to prioritize the ending of FGM/C worldwide, in the same way it responded to other urgent global issues such as HIV/AIDS.
It’s estimated that 200 million women alive today are survivors of FGM/C. It is practiced on every continent except Antarctica. There’s no religious requirement for it, and it is practised in Muslim, Christian, Pagan, and even some Jewish communities.
There can be little doubt that female genital mutilation/cutting is among the worst human rights violation perpetrated against women and girls in the world today. The practice continues because it is a social norm held in place by the expectations of whole communities–women, men, elders, even politicians.
And it continues to be a taboo subject, hidden behind a wall of silence around the world. This too must stop.
Next week, at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Nairobi, where gender equality and reproductive and sexual rights are high on the list of priorities, there is a tremendous opportunity to shine a giant light on the issue of FGM/C and move it firmly to the top of the agenda where it belongs.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, sitting beside Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Women Deliver in Vancouver just a few months ago, courageously committed to ending FGM/C in Kenya by 2022, eight years ahead of the Sustainable Development Goal of 2030.
It’s an ambitious promise, a challenging target for sure–but it shows leadership, it shows vision, it shows a commitment to the idea that girls’ human rights must be cherished, must be protected. We hope that other governments around the world will follow and commit resources, improved data and research, laws and policies to protect girls at risk, and support for survivors, so that together we can end FGM/C around the world.
The End of FGM/C is not just the end of a violation of girls’ human rights, it is also the start of increased economic development for practicing communities and has the power to be completely gender transformative. It is a proven fact that when girls and women fully participate in the economy of a country, it results in significant economic advancement.
And so, we ask the global community at the ICPD to join us, to work together on a multi-pronged approach to end FGM/C by 2030. Whole communities must be mobilized and empowered at the grassroots level. Women and men, girls and boys, health workers, traditional and religious leaders, all have to be empowered to embrace the end of this harmful traditional practice.
We have to address the root causes of gender equality at the community level; we have to listen to and support grassroots organizations that are working in this field; we need an integrated, intersectional approach to ending FGM/C, recognizing the connections with other forms of gender-based violence and linking with existing movements.
We have to work with governments to respond to the adaptations to this violation of girls’ and women’s human rights, include medicalization, cross-border practices, and lowering the age of mutilation/cutting.
Accordingly, we call on all stakeholders to prioritize resources towards grassroots and community led programmes, and to make funding more flexible, sustainable, and accessible.
Whatever our religion, our gender, our ethnicity, –the time has come for every one of us and all our governments to deploy every tool at our disposal to end this harmful practice.
FGM/C is a human rights emergency that continues to exact untold harm on a daily, hourly basis. Together we can end it. Sign up to the Global Platform for Action to End FGM/C today at www.ActionToEndFGMC.com.
(This article was first published in English on December 10, 2016. Read the English version here.)
લેખક : અનામી
ઉંમર : 36 વર્ષ
દેશ : ભારત
હું એક માનસિક આરોગ્ય ચિકિત્સક છું અને છેલ્લા 16 વર્ષોથી હું તેનું કાઉન્સેલિંગ અને થેરાપી આપી રહી છું. મારા ઘરનાં લોકો મારી એક કઝિનની સેરિમનિ વિષે બોલતા હતા ત્યારે અનાયાસે જ મને ‘ખતના’(ટાઈપ 1 એફ.જી.એમ.) વિષે જાણવા મળ્યું. હું વધારે માહિતી મેળવવા માંગતી હતી. મને સમજાયું નહિં કે હું પણ તે પ્રક્રિયા હેઠળથી પસાર થઈ હતી. મને વધારે કંઈ યાદ નથી, બસ આટલું કે મને બળતરા થતી હતી અને ત્યારબાદ મારી માં અને નાની દ્વારા તપાસવામાં આવી રહી હતી.
તે એક હરામની બોટી હતી જેને મારા શરીરમાંથી કાઢી નાખવામાં આવી હોવાથી મારે તે વિષે ક્યારેય વાત કરવી જોઈએ નહિં તેવા વાતાવરણમાં હું મોટી થઈ. મને કહેવામાં આવ્યું હતુ કે હવે તુ શુદ્ધ થઈ ગઈ છે. હું મોટી થઈ તેમ મેં સાઈકૉલોજીનો અભ્યાસ કર્યો, હું એફ.જી.એમ. વિષેનો એક આર્ટિકલ વાંચતી હતી ત્યારે અચાનક જ મને સમજાય ગયું કે તે દિવસે મારી સાથે શું બન્યું હતુ. મને ધક્કો લાગ્યો પરંતુ, તેને સ્વીકારવા સિવાય મારી પાસે કોઈ વિકલ્પ નહોતો કારણ કે જે કંઈ બન્યું તેની કોઈ અસર સમજાઈ નહોતી – મારા પ્રગતિશિલ માં-બાપને પણ નહિં.
મારૂં જીવન અન્ય છોકરીઓની જેમ આગળ વધવા લાગ્યું. મારૂં લગ્ન જીવન, ખાસ કરીને સેક્સ પર તેની કોઈ અસર થઈ નહિં. મારૂં સેક્સ્યુઅલ જીવન અને ઑર્ગેઝમ્સ પણ સંતોષપૂર્ણ હતા અને મેં મહેસુસ કર્યું કે મારા પર ખતનાનીં કોઈ મોટી અસર થઈ નહોતી અથવા સાત વર્ષની ઉંમરે હું જે પ્રક્રિયા હેઠળથી પસાર થઈ તેનાં આઘાતનો સામનો કરવા મેં એ બાબતને એકદમ દબાવી દીધી હતી.
જો કે, મને યાદ છે કે બાળકનાં જન્મ સમયે મારે એપિસિઓટોમી પ્રક્રિયા કરાવવી પડી હતી. UNFPA દ્વારા કરવામાં આવેલ એક સ્ટડી અનુસાર, એક સામાન્ય બૈરીની સરખામણીએ જે બૈરી પર જેનિટલ કટિંગની પ્રક્રિયા કરવામાં આવી હોય તેને સિઝેઅરિયન સેક્શન અને એપિસિઓટોમી ની વધારે જરૂર પડે છે અને બાળકનાં જન્મ પછી વધારે સમય હૉસ્પિટલમાં રહેવું પડે છે.
આ વર્ષની શરૂઆતમાં પીઅર સુપરવિઝનમાં, મારી સાથે જે કંઈ બન્યું તેની પ્રક્રિયાને મેં ધીરે-ધીરે સમજી અને તેને જીવનનાં એક ભાગ રૂપે લીધી. મને એ બાબત પાછળથી સમજાઈ કે એફ.જી.એમ. ની અસરો થાય છે. હકીકતમાં તે આત્માને જખમો આપે છે અને આપણને આશ્ચર્ય થાય કે શું આ પ્રક્રિયા કરવી ખરેખર જરૂરી છે.
ખતના પ્રક્રિયા લાંબા સમય સુધી માનસિક તણાવ આપી શકે છે. કુટુંબનાં સભ્યો દ્વારા ભરોસો તોડવાની લાગણીને કારણે તે બચ્ચાઓનાં વર્તનમાં ગરબડ પેદા કરી શકે છે. મોટી છોકરીઓ પણ બેચેની અને તણાવ મહેસુસ કરી શકે છે.
જે આવી બધી બાબતો સમજે છે, તેવા એક મનોચિકિત્સક તરીકે શું હું ખતનાની ભલામણ કરીશ? ના, હું ભલામણ નહિં કરું કારણ કે, મને લાગે છે કે તેનો મુખ્ય હેતુ બૈરીઓની સેક્સ્યુઆલિટી પર નિયંત્રણ લાવવાનો છે. હું તેની વ્યાખ્યા લિંગ આધારીત હિંસા રૂપે કરીશ.
As a man, I found myself extremely nervous sitting in a circle of ten women at Sahiyo’s Voices to End FGM/C workshop. I had entered what I would consider a sacred space, to share my story related to female genital cutting (FGC), but more importantly, to listen to their stories. The air was dense and it was obvious that what was about to be shared would be opening up deep and unhealed wounds. I took part in Sahiyo’s storytelling workshop because I wanted to make a point that FGC is an issue males should be willing to stand against. My story highlighted how the practice alienated the relationship I had with my sister. Only by listening to her story, were we able to recreate a bond we once had as innocent children.
As the women told their stories, I listened to their descriptions of the pain they underwent both during the practice and throughout their lives. The metaphorical microphone had been passed, and I could hear what these women had kept inside for most of their lives. As a man, and therefore, in many ways an observer, I was situated in a derivative of social voyeurism. I was listening to stories that had weighed these women down for decades, but I myself never went through such experiences. And yet, I was accepted into their circle; I was given the chance to listen because they felt it was important for me to listen. In turn, the story I told was important for them to hear as well. It was one of solidarity, one that depicted a mutual understanding that this practice needs to end no matter one’s biological sex.
It is common knowledge in the community in which I was raised that this issue is one males are not to get involved in. As I have learned from women in the workshop, it’s the same for many communities around the globe. I had learned of the practice tangentially by skimming through an online pamphlet, and only learned of the prevalence of the practice by doing research on my own. It was never brought up in religious congregations, Sunday school, or in conversations with my parents. I had to bring it up to my mother in order to learn more about it, and I have yet to even speak with my father because I know he is likely as shielded from the issue as I once was.
Aside from the fact that males are less informed on the issue, it is also apparent that males turn a blind eye even in light of exposure to the practice. We are expected to let the issue stay a female issue: one that we shouldn’t meddle in because we don’t understand. It is true that I will never understand the actual manifestation and perception of pain and lifelong suffering that comes with the practice, but I do understand that this practice is a source of trauma that affects our daughters and sisters and mothers, and this is enough for men to stand up and speak out against it. Around the globe, females are robbed of their innocence in the form of genital cutting and there is absolutely no good reason why. We must speak up because this issue affects us all.
On June 2, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada, civil society organisations, champions, survivors and other grassroots representatives came together at Women Deliver 2019 to unite voices around a global Call to Action to end female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).
The pre-conference was an unprecedented gathering as a sector working globally across the issue to discuss what is needed to accelerate ending FGM/C by 2030. The event put grassroots voices at the centre and worked to strengthen our unified community of practice to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 5.3. (eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation).
Participants in Vancouver endorsed the following Call to Action:
FGM/C is a violation of the human rights of women and girls and must be ended in all its forms
We need to make FGM/C a global priority, in the same way the global community responded to other global epidemics, such as HIV/AIDs
SUPPORTING CHANGE FROM WITHIN – CHALLENGING SOCIAL AND GENDER NORMS
We share a vision of a world free from FGM/C and will work in partnership with each other, all communities, governments, donors, multilateral bodies and others to end the practice by 2030 in line with the SDGs
Whole communities must be mobilised and empowered at the grassroots level if we are to end FGM/C – women and girls, men and boys, traditional and religious leaders, health workers
Ending FGM/C requires addressing the root causes of gender inequality at the community level, including gender stereotypes, unequal power relations, and negative social norms
STRENGTHENING THE EVIDENCE BASE THROUGH CRITICAL RESEARCH
Fill the knowledge gap on FGM/C survivors’ specific needs, impact on economic empowerment, and behaviour change around emerging trends such as medicalisation and lower ages of cutting
Use community-based participatory approaches within research efforts and ensure that research results and data are synthesised for communities to use
Create, test, and implement standardised universal indicators that are informed by context specific measures and demand country-level reporting
IMPROVING WELLBEING VIA SUPPORT AND SERVICES FOR SURVIVORS
More support is needed for survivors in various forms, including security and protection for survivors, targeted research and resources to enable health and emotional wellbeing
Enable the transformative power of survivors and survivor-led networks through support to connect with each other, other gender-based violence movements and capacity build
ADDRESSING EMERGING TRENDS AROUND FGM/C
We need an integrated, intersectional approach to ending FGM/C recognising the connections with other forms of gender-based violence and linking with existing movements
We are committed to working with religious leaders, health workers and governments to respond to adaptations to the practice which continue to violate women’s rights, such as medicalisation, cross-border practices, and lowering the age at which FGM/C is carried out
INCREASING RESOURCES TO ACHIEVE THE GLOBAL GOAL
We call on all stakeholders to prioritise resources towards grassroots and community-led programmes. Funds should be more flexible, sustainable and accessible for communities and grassroots and capacity building should be provided as well as networks
Investment is needed in better research into what is working and what is not to end FGM/C. This research needs to be participatory and involve multiple stakeholders and should be made available and accessible
We are focused on coming together and working collaboratively to address what existing gaps there are, what are the costs of FGM/C, and what do we need to end this globally
On March 18th 2019, the Muslim American Leadership Alliance (MALA) hosted a parallel event on “Addressing FGM in the USA: Safeguarding Survivors and Protecting Victims“ at the UN Commission on the Status of Women 63rd Session in New York. The panel took place at the UN Church Center. The panel convened survivors, policy makers, non-profit leaders, and community organizers to facilitate the dialogue on what necessary steps are needed to ensure ‘zero tolerance’ towards FGM for both survivors and at-risk women and girls.
Mariya Taher, Sahiyo Cofounder
Mary Franson, Minnesota House of Representatives
Andrea G. Bottner, J.D., Senior Advisor- Independent Women’s Forum
Asad Zaman, M.D
Zehra Patwa, WeSpeakOut Co-Founder and Sahiyo Vice-Chair of the U.S. Advisory Board
This panel analyzed the practice of FGC in the United States through a medical, psychological, and legislative lens. The panelists collectively suggested a variety of approaches to bringing communities together to gain knowledge and organize.
The event was incredibly popular, with the room at full capacity and more guests listening from the hall.
These types of events are essential towards our progress in creating a world without FGC.
On July 16th, Sahiyo Cofounder and U.S. Executive Director, Mariya Taher was invited to attend the 3rd Annual Intersections of Violence: Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Child Abuse Conference
in Hampton, VA and host a break-out session on female genital cutting
(FGC) in the United States. The conference is dedicated to enhancing the
effectiveness of victims service professionals and brought together law
enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, child advocates, and other
allied professionals to highlight promising practices and emerging
issues to effectively respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, and
child abuse in our communities.
Mariya’s presentation, the only one of its kind at the
conference, covered an overview of who is affected by FGC, interventions
used to address FGC, and how to work/respond to survivors. Most
attendees had little experience with FGC and so throughout the
presentation, survivor stories, from Sahiyo Stories project
were shown to participants to help contextualize that FGC was an issue
within the U.S. affecting women of all different backgrounds, including
religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status, education level, citizenship