ખતના ના ખૂનથી લથબથ હાથ અને એ દીકરીઓની ચીસો ક્યારે પોહચશે આ સમાજ સુધી?

લેખક: અનામિકા
ગુજરાત

(લેખિકા ગુજરાતના એક સુસંસ્કૃત ગ્રામ્ય માહોલામાં જન્મ લઈને ગુજરાતના એક મોટા શહેરમાં દાઉદી વહોરા સમાજમાં પ્રવર્તી કુપ્રથાઓ અને કુરિવાજો સામે બંડ પોકારે છે. સ્ત્રી સમુદાયમાં પોતાનો આવાજ શબ્દો ચોર્યા વગર વ્યક્ત કરવાની હિમત અને ક્ષમ્તા ધરાવે છે.)

દાઉદી વ્હોરા સમાજની માફક આફ્રિકાના અમુક દેશમાં નાની ઉમરની છોકરીઓની સુન્નત થાય છે. પરંતુ છેલ્લા 20 વર્ષોમાં આફ્રિકન દેશોમાં આ વિષે હવે જોરસોરથી આવાજ ઉઠવાય છે. તો ભારતમાં સૌથી સમૃદ્ધ અને શિક્ષિત ગણાતા વ્હોરા સમાજમાં હજુ આ વિષે સ્ત્રીઓ કેમ બોલતી નથી? આ માટે એક સુન્નત/ખતના પીડિત ગુજરાતની શિક્ષિત વહોરા મહિલા તરીકે મેં મારો અવાજ બુલંદ કરવાનું નક્કી કર્યું છે.


હું મારા પુરુષ પ્રધાન સમાજ અને ખાસ કરીને મારા ધર્મગુરુ વર્ગને પૂછવા માંગુ છું કે, શું વહોરા દીકરી પર સાત વર્ષની ઉંમરે થતો આ એક પ્રકારનો પુરુષ પ્રધાન બળાત્કાર નથી? કુદરતે જે શારીરિક રચના, જેને માટે નિર્ધારિત કરી છે, તેનો યથાતથ (જેમનો તેમ) ઉપયોગ શુ તે માટે જ ના થવો જોઈએ? હવે તો મને પણ સવાલ થાય છે કે કુદરતે એ અંગજ શુ કામ બનાવ્યું હતું?
ક્યારેય વિચાર્યું છે, અનુભવ્યું છે, એ દીકરીઓ પર નાની ઉમરે શારીરિક અને માનસીક કેવા આઘાત જીરવતી હશે? એ ડર કે શરમના લીધે ભલે બોલે નહિ, પણ આખી જિંદગી તેની તેને પીડા થતી હોય છે. મને તો એવો પ્રશ્ન પણ થાય છે કે શું વ્હોરા સમાજના પુરષોમાં પોતાની પત્નીને શારીરિક સુખ આપવાની શક્તિ કે ક્ષમ્તા નથી? મને તો એવું લાગે છે કે પુરુષના સુખ માટે અને ધર્મગુરુના આદેશ ને વશ થઈને ડરના લીધે માતાઓ દીકરીઓ સાથે આ અત્યાચાર થવા દે છે. જેથી પુરુષ તેની દુર્બળતા છુપાવી શકે. જો આ શબ્દોથી પુરુષ જાતને માનસિક ઠેસ પોહચતી હોય, તો તેણે એટલું તો જરૂર વિચારવું જોઈએ કે એક સ્ત્રી ઉપર તે પોતાનું પ્રભુત્વ સ્થાપવા મઝહબના નામે અને પોતાના આનંદ માટે અત્યાચાર કરે છે.


દાઉદી વ્હોરા સમાજમાં સ્ત્રી ખતના/સુન્નત વિષે લાંબા સમયથી વિવાદ ચાલી રહ્યો છે, યુનાઈટેડ નેશન્સનું ભારત સરકાર પર દબાણ છે, કેટલીક ક્રાંતિકારી યુવા મહિલાઓએ ધર્મગુરુ દ્વારા પ્રોત્સાહિત કરાતી આ બિનઆવશ્યક નઠારી પ્રથાનો વિરોધ કરવા ઝંડો ઉપાડ્યો છે. આ કુપ્રથા પર પ્રતિબંધ મુકવા સુપ્રીમ કોર્ટની મધ્યસ્થી ચાહતી એક અરજી, સુનાવણી માટે પેન્ડીંગ પડી છે.
મારે તો કહેવું છે કે સમાજની તમામ સ્ત્રીઓ એ આવાજ ઉઠાવો જ જોઈએ. ક્યાં સુધી વેહમો અને અંધશ્રદ્ધાના નામ પર આવી કુપ્રથાના ગુલામ બની રેહશો? તમારી સાથે જે અત્યાચાર થયો તે હવે પછીની સમાજની કોઈ પણ દીકરી સાથે ના થવો જોઈએ. ઘરના બુજુર્ગ, ખાસ કરીને મહિલાઓ, ના માને તો માતા-પિતાએ તો પોતાની દીકરી માટે સજાગ થવુ જ જોઈએ.


મારી દીકરીને આ કુપ્રથામાથી બચાવી લેવા મારા કુટુંબ સાથે મેં જબ્બર સંઘર્ષ કર્યો અને હું હારી ગઈ. હું આ લખી રહી છું ત્યારે પણ મારા રૂવાડા ઊભા થઈ જાય છે. મારી નજર સામેથી મેં મારી સાવ અણસમજ દીકરી સાથે આચરેલી દુષ્ટતા માટે મને ખુબ પસ્તાવો પણ થઇ રહ્યો છે. મારી દીકરીની અને મારી ખુદની ચીસો મારા કાનમાં હજુ પણ ગુંજે છે, ક્યારેક રાતે ઉઠીને પસ્તાવો કરું છું. મે મારા પતિને ખૂબ સમજાવ્યા પણ તે ગુલામ માનસિકતા ધરાવતા અને ડરપોક નીકળ્યા, હું હારી ગઈ મારી દીકરીની સામે. આજે જ્યારે પાછુવાળીને ભૂતકાળને યાદ કરું છું, મારા ભાગ્યને દોષ આપું છું, મારી જાતને પૂછું છું, હું દીકરીને લઇ ભાગી કેમ નો ગઇ? જો આમ કર્યું હોત તો આજે આ મનસ્થિતિનો માનસિક શિકાર ન બની હોત. હું નથી ખુદને માફ કરી શકતી, ના મારા પતિ કે પરિવાર ને.


પરિપક્વ થયેલી મારી દીકરી આજે મને પૂછે છે “માં મારી સાથે તે આવું શુકામ થવા દીધું?” આજે પણ હું મારી જાતને ગુનેગાર ગણી મૂંગી થઇ જાઉં છું. હું પણ મારી મને પૂછતી હોઉં છું કે કેવી પીડા અને દર્દ મેં સહન કર્યું હતું એ વખતે. કેટલું લોહી જીવતા અંગના છેદનથી વહી જાય છે, કેવી જહ્ન્નમી પીડા થાય છે, તે ક્યારેય આ ધર્મગુરૂઓ કે પુરુષો શું સમજી શકે છે? નહિ સમજે માં નહિ સમજે એ લોકો. સ્ત્રીઓ તો મૂરખાની જેમ ગુલામ બની જીવમાં પોતે બહુ ધાર્મિક છે તે દેખાડવામાં બધું ચુપચાપ સહન જ કરે રાખે છે. અને પાછી તે વાતનો ગર્વ લેતા પણ શરમાતી નથી. આ વાત એક દીકરીને સમજાય છે. શું કહવતા પ્રગતિશીલ ગણાતી વોહરા કોમને આ વાત સમજાય છે?
મારો આત્મા મને દરરોજ ઢંઢોળે છે, હચમચાવે છે. ક્યાં સુધી અંધશ્રદ્ધા અને વેહમના નામે કેટલીએ માસૂમ દીકરીઓનો આ સમાજ ભોગ લેશે? મારા સમાજને હું પૂછું છું. ખાસ કરીને સમાજના પુરુષોને કે ક્યારેય વિચાર્યું, આ ગંદી માનસિકતા અને ગંદો રીવાજ ક્યાંથી કેમ આવ્યો? ક્યારેય મૂળ સુધી પોહચવાનો પ્રયત્ન કર્યો?


મને સુપર મોડેલ વારીસ ડીરીનું પુસ્તક “ડેજર્ટ ફ્લાવર” યાદ આવી રહ્યું છે. તેણે લખેલો આફ્રિકન ઇતિહાસ જોશો તો, તમારા રુવાડા ખાડા થઇ જશે. આફ્રિકન સ્ત્રી બાળકો પર કેવી બર્બરતા આચરવામાં આવી રહી છે. તેનું તાદ્સ વર્ણન આ પુસ્તકમાં કરવામાં આવ્યું છે. આ પુસ્તકે આફ્રિકન સમાજમાં ક્રાંતિ આણી છે. આફ્રિકન સમાજ હવે આ કુપ્રથામાંથી બહાર નીકળવા લાગ્યો છે. યુનાઈટેડ નેશન્સને તેની નોંધ લેવાની ફરજ પડી છે.


હું હવે જે વાત કહેવા જઈ રહી છું, તેના પુરાવા મળી જશે. ભારત પર વરમાર બહારથી મુસ્લિમો ચઢાઈ કરતા તે આપણે બધા જાણીએ છીએ. તે દરમિયાન તે વચ્ચે આવતા ગામો અને સ્ત્રીઓને લુંટતા. આ વાત જગ જાહેર છે. પુરુષને તેનું પુરુષતત્વ, સ્ત્રી પર અત્યાચાર કરી ને જ તો દેખાડવું હોય છે. સદીઓથી એમજ થતું આવે છે. વારંવારની ચઢાઈ પછી ત્યાં લૂટવા જેવુ કાઇ નથી તેની સાબિતી રૂપે સ્ત્રી નું નાક અને જનાનાંગ વિધતો, આ સચ્ચઈ છે. એટ્લે તો આપણા સમાજમાં દીકરીની સુન્નત/ખતના પછી સ્ત્રીઓ, નાક વીંધ્વ્યુ તેમ બોલતી. આ તમને યાદ હશે જ? અને પછી જ નાક વિન્ધવામાં આવતું. ત્યારની અવદશા અને માનસિક પીડા દીકરીઓને કદી ભુલાતી નથી . આજની યુવા પેઢીને આની જાણ નહીં હોય. કેમ કે તે સંપૂર્ણ ગુલામી સાથે મોટી થઈ છે.


આપણી સ્ત્રીઓ ખત્નાની માફક નાની બાળકીનું નાક પણ વીંધતી. કેમ હવે નાક વીંધવાનું બંધ થયું? બસ ઉપરથી ધર્મગુરુનો આદેશ થયો એટલે માની લેવાનું? કેમ વિચાર ના આવ્યો? આપણાં સમાજમાં ચૂક પેહરવાની પ્રથા બંધ કરવામાં આવી, ધર્મગુરુના આદેશ આવ્યા પેહલાથી જ મે ચૂક/નથ પેહરવાનું બંધ કરેલુ. પુસ્તકોનાં વાંચન દ્વારા તે સચ્ચઈની મને ખબર પડી હતી. તેને સુહગની નિશાની ગણાતી. સાવ અચાનક તે નાકનું ઘરેણું પેહરવાની મનાઈ થઈ ગઈ. આ વાતને આપણે સ્ત્રી સુન્નત/ખતના સાથે ચૂક પેહરવાનુ બંધ થય શકતું હોય તો આ ભયાનક ખતના પ્રથા બંધ થવી જ જોઈએ. એ જોડીને જોવાનું કેમ નથી વિચારતા?

આને હું માસૂમ બાળકીઓ ઉપર કાયદેસરનો બળાત્કાર/રેપ જ ગણું છું. મને દાઉદી વહોરા સમાજના પુરુષો પ્રત્યે ધૃણા/નફરતની લાગણી પેદા થાય છે. કેટલીક બાબતોમાં આજે પણ કુરિવાજો સહન કરીને મારી નજરમાંથી હું પોતે નીચી ઉતરી ગયાનો અનુભવ કરું છું. હવે અવાજ નહિ ઉઠાવવામાં આવે તો વધુ ભયાનકતા સહન કરવા માટે ત્યાર રેહજો. ડરવાનું બંધ કરો. સચ્ચાઈ માટે એક થાવ, નહિતર આવનાર પેઢી ખાસ કરીને સમાજની મહિલાઓ તમને માફ નહિ કરે.

તમારી બેન, દીકરી, પત્ની, માં, સાસુ, આ બધાયે આ બધુ સહન કર્યું પોતાનું અંગ ગુમાવ્યું. કેટલીયે શારીરિક અને માનસિક બીમારીનો ભોગ બની એનો અંદાજો પણ કોઈ પુરુષ ના લગાવી શકે. હવે પછીની એક પણ દીકરી, બહેન સાથે આવું ના થાય તે જોવાની જ્વાબદારી મારી, તમારી, આપણી બધાની છે. જે તે સમયે જે કારણથી જે તે પરંપરા શરૂ થઈ હતી તેને જેમના તેમ વળગી રહેવાનું? આધુનિક અને વૈજ્ઞાનિક જમાનામાં પણ જે આવશ્યક નથી તેવા રીત-રીવાજો માત્ર ધર્મગુરુની ખુશી માટે જાળવી રાખવાના, તમારી જાતને પૂછો, તમારો અંતરાત્મા શુ કહે છે, તેનો આવાજ સાંભળો.

Orchid Project releases report detailing the pandemic’s impact on female genital cutting

By Hunter Kessous

Reports of an increasing rate of female genital cutting (FGC) began early in the pandemic. We are now nine months into the lockdowns and school closures, which have propagated the cutting of young girls. In response, the Orchid Project, decided to further investigate the impact of COVID-19 on the practice of FGC and the movement to end it. The Orchid Project is a nongovernmental organization based in the United Kingdom advocating for the end of FGC globally.

Throughout the summer, various grassroots organizations and non-governmental organizations have hosted webinars elucidating the effects of COVID-19 on specific organizations. Sahiyo has shared blog posts reflecting on some of these webinars, which have focused on work in Nigeria and Kenya. There are some key pieces of information shared between these webinars and the Orchid Project’s reports. For example, COVID-19 induced lockdowns and school closures are creating opportunities for FGC to be performed undetected. When girls stay home, they are automatically at a greater risk of undergoing FGC. Furthermore, safe spaces, such as shelters and mental health services, have been closed down. Even medical attention is difficult for FGC survivors to receive, as resources have mainly been diverted to the pandemic. Lack of essential health services and safe spaces for girls and women is a serious concern. 

According to the report, “Resourcing and programming to end the practice in Asia are extremely limited, so the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on activities to end FGC have been less significant than in West and East Africa.” The report gives an alarming account of how economic hardship caused by the pandemic has also led to an increase in FGC. In some communities, girls who have been cut are often seen as more marriageable and receive higher bride prices. The bride prices can then be exchanged for food and essential supplies, which has motivated families to cut their girls in this time of extreme economic hardship. Another economic factor involves former cutters who have been returning to the practice, in need of the compensation it will provide. 

In addition to affecting the practice of FGC, there have also been drastic effects on the movement to end FGC. Nearly all of the groups that were interviewed by Orchid Project for the report have experienced severe restrictions on programming due to stay-at-home and distancing orders. Many organizations have responded by shifting their programming to virtual and media-based formats. However, this is not without its own challenges. Unequal access to technology and internet, along with the often high prices of radio and television communication, have been major obstacles to continuing community dialogues about FGC. The greatest need that the grassroots organizations are currently facing is urgent, flexible emergency funding. 

This is not to say that the grassroots organizations have not adapted to the dilemmas created by COVID-19. There have been many creative approaches to continuing their important work. Some in-person programming has continued with social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment. WhatsApp and social media platforms are being used to share key information, stimulate dialogues, and share podcasts. Hotlines have been created for at-risk girls; and some activists are even housing these girls in their own homes. The movement to end FGC has certainly taken a hit, but it is not without hope, thanks to the ingenuity and dedication of grassroots activists worldwide.

Read the full report by the Orchid Project.

From Saving Safa to Seven: How authors use writing to shed light on FGC

By Cate Cox

“Without our work, the issue would quickly be swept under the carpet — and so we carry on.” —Waris Dirie, Saving Safa 

It wasn’t until my first year at university before I was asked to critically engage with the issue of female genital cutting (FGC). Up until then what I knew about FGC I knew from overheard conversations between my parents and their colleagues, from snippets of news briefs and CNN articles that flashed across my computer screen. If you’d asked me to name an activist working to end FGC, my answer would have been something along the lines of someone working with the United Nations. 

Yet when I saw Waris Dirie’s novel, Saving Safa, on the reading list for my leadership class, I immediately recognized it. The young, but strong face of Safa having become almost synonymous with the global fight to end FGC. I knew her face, yet I didn’t know her story. 

As much as I agreed that the practice of FGC ought to end, I’d never been asked, or asked myself, to sit down and engage with the stories and lessons of the actual activists on the front lines working to end it. As I made my way through Dirie’s critically acclaimed sixth novel, I began to understand how little I understood. I realized how much my perception of FGC had been shaped by the position of an outsider looking in, instead of as a listener. 

We only spent two weeks in my class covering Saving Safa, but they are two weeks for which I am extremely grateful. Reading Saving Safa helped expand my understanding of FGC, the communities who practice it, and the challenges faced by people trying to end it. This 276-page book, not written for doctors or scholars or researchers, but accessible to ordinary people like me, had managed to change my world view in a mere two weeks. 

The success of Dirie’s many novels about this subject highlights the power of writing, and storytelling in general, as a weapon to encourage the abandonment of FGC. Writing allows people a glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of the communities that practice it. It allows us an accessible way to understand the issues and complexities of ending the practice. Most importantly, it brings to light the stories of such an often overlooked and ignored practice. Writing also has the power to allow survivors to see their own stories reflected, and gives both the author and the reader a space to heal.

But the legacy of FGC and writing doesn’t end with Dirie. New and emerging writers are taking the torch to use writing to help shift the narratives around FGC. One of those writers is Farzana Doctor, author of the upcoming novel, Seven In her novel, Doctor follows the story of Sharifa and the unrest that is gripping the Dawoodi-Bohra community as activists grow louder in their fight to end the practice of khatna or FGC. Doctor’s writing never shies away from highlighting the complications and difficulties that come with trying to end the practice. These reviews shine a light on Doctor’s intentions for Seven:

“In her grand tradition, Farzana Doctor once again pushes us forward with nuanced, layered, inter-generational prose, to bring visibility to an important social issue. An urgent and passionate read.”—Vivek Shraya, author of I’m Afraid of Men and The Subtweet

Seven is an intimate, gutsy feminist novel that exposes the lasting, individual impacts of making women’s bodies fodder for displays of religious obeisance.”—Michelle Anne Schingler, FOREWORD Reviews

These reviews summarize the value that writing has in education and advocacy around FGC. The work of Doctor, and other authors like her, is helping to continue to push against the boundaries of silence that keep this practice so often trapped in the shadows. She is fighting to continue the tradition started so many years ago by Dirie in using writing to shed light on the topic of FGC. 

Doctor will speak about her work and activism at the Sahiyo webinar, Moving Towards Sexual Pleasure and Emotional Healing After FGC, on October 22nd, at 12 noon. Expert panelists Joanna Vergoth and Sarian Karim-Kamara will shed light on these subjects using their professional and personal experiences. 

Register for this event today: https://bit.ly/HealingAfterFGC 

The event is co-sponsored by Sahiyo, WeSpeakOut, The End FGM/C Canada Network, forma, and Keep the Drums Lose the Knife.

For those interested in learning more about FGC, you can purchase a copy of Seven through the links below or bookstores: 

US: bit.ly/orderSevenUS

Canada: bit.ly/orderseven

Audiobook: bit.ly/sevenaudiobook

Sahiyo India needs a part-time Communications Associate

Sahiyo India is looking for a Communications Associate to support various programs, projects and public communications. In this role, you should be an excellent communicator with strong attention to detail. Creating social media campaigns, editing and writing Sahiyo materials and grant based writing will be an important part of your job. If you also have administrative and social media marketing experience, we’d like to meet you. 

This is a part-time position ideal for a young professional located anywhere in India. We are looking for someone proactive, who is willing to work independently and remotely, for up to 20 hours a month.

This is a great opportunity for you to work with the founders of an internationally-recognised organisation, and learn how organisations develop from the ground up.

Job duration: September 2020 – November 2020 (with the potential to extend further)

Responsibilities & Duties:

  • Facilitate internal and public communications
  • Assist in developing programme/campaign plans and strategies and drive them. 
  • Draft and edit communications (e.g. reports, social media posts, press releases)
  • Assist in maintaining web content and executing social media strategies for Sahiyo India
  • Support the administrative manager with logistical coordination of Sahiyo programmes and events as needed.
  • Support Sahiyo India Co-founders in creating and executing campaigns

Requirements: 

  • Understanding of media relations and digital media/campaign strategies
  • Proficiency in Google Docs, MS Office; familiarity with design software (e.g. Canva, Photoshop, InDesign) and content management systems is a bonus,
  • Experience with Excel and data manipulation is a bonus
  • Solid editing and researching skills
  • Excellent communication abilities (oral and written)
  • Ability to multitask on different projects
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Organizational skills

Desired Qualities: 

  • Experience working in the field of gender-based violence, FGM/C, or related field.
  • Sensitivity towards different cultures

To Apply:

Please send a resume and cover letter to Priya Goswami at priya@sahiyo.com no later than Tuesday, August 28, 2020. The email subject line should state “Application: Communications Associate”.

About Sahiyo

SAHIYO, an award winning, transnational, organization is dedicated to empowering Asian communities to end female genital cutting (FGC) and create positive social change through dialogue, education and collaboration based on community involvement. By working towards an FGC-free world, we aim to recognize and emphasize the values of consent and a child’s/woman’s right over her own body. We aim to enable a culture in which female sexuality is not feared or suppressed but embraced as normal. For more read, about Sahiyo’s storytelling and our history.  

Massachusetts Senate passes FGM/C bill

BOSTON, MA – July 30, 2020 – Sahiyo would like to thank the President of the Massachusetts Senate, Karen Spilka, and bill sponsor Senator Joe Boncore (D-First Suffolk and Middlesex) for the passage of bill H4606 “An Act Relative to the Penalties for the crime of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C)” in Massachusetts. The FGM/C bill had a favorable vote in a formal session of the Senate, after it passed in the House on July 16th. Governor Charlie Baker will have 10 days to sign the bill. 

Survivors Mariya Taher, Aisha Yusuf, and activist Hanna Stern created a change.org petition to plead with the Massachusetts state legislature to protect young girls in Massachusetts from being cut by making FGM/C illegal. Taher, in particular, was praised by Senator Boncore for her work and advocacy on the issue. Taher has worked with the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts independently, and on behalf of Sahiyo – United Against Female Genital Cutting, of which she is the U.S. Executive Director and co-founder. Senator Boncore also recognized Sahiyo for their work on advocating for the abandonment of FGM/C. A member of the legislative working group, Joanne Golden, is also a member of the U.S. Advisory Board for Sahiyo. 

On June 16th, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted favorably to pass the bill. The FGM/C bill not only has bipartisan support, but also bicameral support, with over 100 Senate and House cosigners of the original bills (H3332, H1466). The bill has also been supported by almost 50 organizations, including The Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts, the AHA Foundation, UNICEF USA, the U.S. End FGM/C Network, Boston Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement, Office of the Child Advocate, Caucus of Women Legislators, American Academy of Pediatrics – Massachusetts Chapter, and American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) – Massachusetts section, and Sahiyo, to name only a few. 

FGM/C is defined by the World Health Organization as removal of all or part of a girl’s healthy genitals and surrounding tissue for non-medical reasons, often resulting in serious health consequences, including the risk of death in childbirth, and lifelong trauma. There are no health benefits to this practice. According to the Centers for Disease Control, half a million women and girls living in the U.S. have been cut or are at risk of FGM/C. Over fourteen thousand such women and girls reside in Massachusetts, which ranks as 12th in the nation for at-risk populations. Last session, the Joint Judiciary Committee heard unequivocal testimony from survivors that FGM/C happens in the U.S., and that girls born in Massachusetts are at risk.

Thirty-eight states have already passed laws banning FGM/C,  including during the shutdown for the COVID-19 pandemic, and we respectfully urge Governor Baker to sign bill H4606 into law so that Massachusetts can become number 39. In November 2019, a U.S. District court struck down the federal law making FGM/C illegal, finding that Congress exceeded its authority under the U.S. constitution, and that FGM/C is a violent crime that must be regulated by the states. Top Massachusetts law enforcement officials testified last September that existing state criminal laws would not cover FGM/C. The Department of Children and Families considers FGM/C a form of child abuse. Massachusetts must act to stop this practice.

Thank you to Senate President Spilka and House Speaker DeLeo, and our House and Senate bill sponsors for your leadership, support, and action on such an important issue of women and girl child rights.

U.S. may deny asylum for females fleeing gender-based violence

By Hunter Kessous

(Follow this link to take action immediately and stand with survivors before July 15th.)

At the age of 17, Fauziya Kassindja narrowly escaped undergoing female genital cutting (FGC) and a forced marriage in her home country of Togo. She used a fake passport to make her way to the United States, and upon arriving at the border, explained to the officials that her document was fake and she was there to seek asylum. She was placed in a maximum security prison for nearly two years. Her case for refuge was initially denied, and was appealed to the highest immigration court in the U.S. where she was finally granted asylum. In 1996, Fauziya became the first to gain refuge in the U.S. on the grounds of escaping FGC. Her victory set the precedent for future immigrants to receive asylum from gender-based persecution. 

In addition to the precedent set by Kassindja’s case, there are multiple legal reasons why FGC qualifies as persecution. It violates multiple human rights documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child among others. To qualify for refugee status, an individual must prove the persecution they fear is for reason of her race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. FGC is often thought to be a religious requirement. It can also be argued that opposition to FGC is a political opinion. 

It seems obvious that FGC should be grounds for asylum in the U.S. Yet, women are still refused for reasons that are often untrue or impossible, such as “woman can refuse to be cut or “the woman can relocate.

Now, refuge for women escaping FGC may be significantly limited. A proposed rule by the Homeland Security Department and Executive Office for Immigration Review set to be finalized on July 15th, would radically restrict eligibility for asylum, especially for those fleeing gender-based violence (GBV) and for LBGTQIA+ individuals. The regulation bars evidence that supports an asylum claim if it could be seen as promoting cultural stereotypes. On this basis, a judge could refuse refugee status to a woman fleeing FGC because the judge may think it promotes a cultural stereotype. A woman escaping GBV could be denied asylum on the grounds that feminism is not a political opinion. It even allows officials to dismiss some asylum applications without a hearing. These are only a few examples of the many ways this rule would dismantle the U.S. asylum system.

We must act now to protect women and girls. The rule will go into effect July 15th, but before it is finalized the government must read and respond to comments sent by organizations and individuals. To submit a comment, follow this link. A sample comment is provided, but it is imperative to make your comment unique in order to ensure that it is read and responded to accordingly. 

For more resources to fight the finalization of this harmful rule, read this document containing websites for action-taking, informative webinars and articles, and sign-on letters. 

Voices Series: Why I, as an artist, collaborated with survivors of FGM/C

This blog is part of a series of reflective essays by participants of the Voices to End FGM/C workshops run by Sahiyo and StoryCenter. Through residential and online workshops on digital storytelling, Voices to End FGM/C enables those who have been affected by female genital mutilation/cutting to tell their stories through their own perspectives, in their own words.

By Esther Elia

As an artist, I wait for moments like the Voices to End FGM/C workshop with excitement and anticipation–moments where my passion can be linked with the passions of others to create projects that bring to light the true injustices of our world, including the traditions that have fallen through the cracks and deserve a critical eye.

I got to collaborate with two women who have the foresight, courage, and self-awareness to question a tradition that has been taken for granted, and thrust it into the public eye so that others may also think critically about the effect FGM/C has on women. It was my great privilege to be a part of this project and create images that would impact the viewer, and most accurately reflect the storyteller.

For a subject matter so wrought with strong emotion, simplicity of image became my strategy. The story was the main character, and my art functioned as the supporting characters, giving the main message its meaning. This is a project that I will always remember and be proud to have been a part of.

Voices Series: How listening to survivors' stories made me a better advocate

This blog is part of a series of reflective essays by participants of the Voices to End FGM/C workshops run by Sahiyo and StoryCenter. Through residential and online workshops on digital storytelling, Voices to End FGM/C enables those who have been affected by female genital mutilation/cutting to tell their stories through their own perspectives, in their own words.

By Karen Kwok, MSN, FNP-BC

I sought participation in the Voices to End FGM/C workshop to better understand the patient experience of survivors of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). With increased awareness, I hope to be a better advocate and provider for women’s physical and mental health. The best practices for addressing FGM/C applies to all patient scenarios with creating safe space for active listening, appreciative inquiry and openness for building long-term rapport (if counseling is requested), and providing necessary physical and mental health services and referral resources without judgement.

Challenges to addressing FGM/C include the limited time with provider productivity demands, few available gynecological surgeons specializing in FGM/C labiaplasty with insurance coverage, and few resources for culturally competent mental health services.

Long-term consequences of FGM/C include long-term emotional anguish, gynecological and gastrointestinal pain, and obstetric complications. With the long-term relationship in primary care advocacy, family medicine providers are best positioned to support patient sexuality with initial and ongoing training in female anatomy, counseling strategies on gender orientation and sexual positivity, and patient care best practices. From this workshop, I hope to improve my skills in FGM/C counseling and gynecological health service delivery with increased awareness of women’s sexuality in the global context.

 

 

 

 

 
 

Job Opening! Social Media Consultant for a new Sahiyo project in India

Social Media Consultant position for an exciting new project on Female Genital Cutting in India

Are you a social media person with a passion for women’s and human rights? Do you have the skills to design social media campaigns?  If yes, then you could be working for an exciting new tech-based project in the movement against Female Genital Cutting (FGC) in India. 

Sahiyo is an international organization working to end FGC among Asian communities. We are looking for a proactive, efficient and bright social media consultant to join the team on a freelance basis to help us promote the app. 

Project duration: 1st June 2020 – 30th September 2020

Time commitment required: 10 hours per week (Flexible)

Main work involved: 

  • Work with the Sahiyo team to design social media campaigns to promote the new project.
  • Excellent social media skills to help us design outreach campaigns. 
  • Pro at social media channels, knows how to post across platforms. 
  • Crafting communication, willingness to promptly work out a response

 

Qualifications:

We are looking for an individual who has:

  • 1-2 years of experience in social media campaigning 
  • strong skills in writing, design thinking, campaign strategizing 
  • an eagerness to learn about the nuances and complexities of FGC in India
  • sensitivity towards cultural appropriateness and the needs of survivors of FGC and other community members 
  • The efficiency with respect to time management and being results-oriented
  • Passionate about the cause and willingness to be flexible with hours

The individual could be based anywhere in India but must be comfortable with working remotely and prompt with email communication.   

To apply, send your CV with a cover letter to priya@sahiyo.com 

 

Voices Series: How I reconnected with my purpose through storytelling

This blog is part of a series of reflective essays by participants of the Voices to End FGM/C workshops run by Sahiyo and StoryCenter. Through residential and online workshops on digital storytelling, Voices to End FGM/C enables those who have been affected by female genital mutilation/cutting to tell their stories through their own perspectives, in their own words.

By Nonya Khedr 

Sahiyo and StoryCenter created a remarkable experience for me at the Voices to End FGM/C digital storytelling workshop. The workshop included phenomenal women and men who wanted to use their stories to advocate against the practice. Although sharing my story put me in a position where I felt extremely vulnerable and exposed, I certainly felt safe.

During the workshops, we learned how to create and articulate our stories in order to advocate against the practice. We took breaks to participate in healing exercises such as yoga and meditation. I was very grateful that we took time out of the workshops because it helped me reconnect with myself and acknowledge where I was. It gave my brain time to rejuvenate after revisiting traumatic experiences.

These exercises emphasized the importance of taking time out of my everyday life to take care of my wellbeing in order to strive and grow in my career. A few weeks later, I am now more mindful of how to manage my work, reconnecting with my purpose and remembering why I am doing this work. I am taking better care of my self with prayer, exercise, and downtime. 

The workshop inspired me to keep moving forward with the work I’m doing with my organization, SheFFA. I started SheFFA earlier this year to advocate against FGM/C, and provide support for women who have undergone the practice. Before coming to the conference, I experienced so many stressful and discouraging moments working on it due to the overwhelming amount of work and being a full-time college student. However, being a part of an environment full of powerful women and men who are passionate about eradicating FGM/C gave me more hope to move forward. I have developed lovely relationships with people who are extremely supportive and whose goals align with my mission.

The story that I have created during the workshop will be used to bring more awareness against FGM/C with the intention to empower other people to speak out against the practice and to make a greater impact.