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

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

 

81% want Khatna to end: results of Sahiyo’s online survey of Bohra women

On the occasion of International Zero Tolerance Day for Female Genital Cutting, Sahiyo is proud to present the complete findings of the first large-scale, global research study on the subject of Khatna as practiced by Dawoodi Bohras.

The report of the study, titled ‘Understanding Female Genital Cutting in the Dawoodi Bohra Community: An Exploratory Survey’, was officially released at a press conference in Mumbai on the morning of February 6, 2017. The report contains the full results and analysis of a detailed online survey of 385 Dawoodi Bohra women from around the world. This survey was conducted over a period of six months from July 2015 to January 2016.

READ THE FULL SURVEY REPORT HERE

What did the Sahiyo survey find?

We encourage you to read the full report to understand the methodology used in the survey, the complete statistics and findings, the analysis of the data and the stories of women who provided personal accounts of their experience. However, here are some key findings at a quick glance:

Demography:

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  • 385 Dawoodi Bohra women participated
  • Majority from India and USA
  • 67% between 18-25 years old
  • 76% married
  • 80% women working or running a business from home

Experience of Khatna:

80% survey participants had been subjected to Khatna as children. Out of those women,

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  • 66% were 6 or 7 years old when they were cut
  • 74% were cut by an untrained traditional cutter
  • 15% were cut by a health professional
  • 65% were not sure about which part of their genitals was cut

Impact of Khatna:

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  • 51% of those who were cut felt fear immediately after Khatna
  • 21% of those who were cut felt anger
  • 98% of those who were cut described experiencing pain immediately after the Khatna.
  • 35% of those who were cut claimed that Khatna affected their sexual life. Out of those women, 87% said Khatna had a negative impact on their sexual life.

Reasons given for Khatna:

Survey participants had heard of multiple different reasons for why Khatna is practiced in the Dawoodi Bohra community. The most common reasons were:

 

  • For religious purposes – 56%
  • To decrease sexual arousal – 45%
  • To maintain traditions and customs – 42%
  • For physical hygiene and cleanliness – 27%

Hope for the future:

Perhaps the most important finding of the Sahiyo survey is that a huge majority of the participants do not want the practice of Khatna to continue.

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  • 82% said they are unlikely or extremely unlikely to continue Khatna on their daughter

 

  • 81% said they are not okay with Khatna continuing in the community

This indicates an opportunity for the prevalence of Khatna to reduce among Dawoodi Bohras a generation from now.

Why is Sahiyo’s Khatna Survey significant?

Because there has been almost no research on Khatna among Bohras before this.

Female Genital Cutting (known as Khatna or female circumcision in the Bohra community) is recognised as a form of violence against women and children. It is illegal in many countries, has no mention in the Quran and is in fact considered un-Islamic by many Islamic scholars.

Dawoodi Bohras have been practicing Khatna as a secretive ritual for centuries, and the silence around the practice has broken only recently, in the past four or five years. Even though many women from the community are now speaking out about their personal experiences of Khatna and pushing for an end to the practice, there has been little to no scientific research on the subject.

Without research and representative data, it is difficult to determine the degree of prevalence of Khatna and to understand the complex social norms and cultural value systems that shape the practice of Khatna within the community. The lack of research also makes it difficult to pass legislation and policies, and to design outreach and education programmes to push for an end to the practice. As the first large-scale research study on FGC among Bohras, Sahiyo’s Khatna Survey aims to fill this gap in knowledge and data.

The Sahiyo online survey is a preliminary and exploratory study of Khatna. The survey results point to the need for much more in-depth field research, both qualitative and quantitative, on the practice of Khatna among Bohras. In the future, surveys of Bohra men’s attitudes towards Khatna are also needed. We hope that this pioneering survey becomes a base for future research on Khatna.

(Conducting large-scale scientific research on FGC requires funding and other resources, which are currently lacking in India and other Asian countries where FGC is practiced but not widely known. To encourage the United Nations and other international agencies to invest more towards research and advocacy to end FGC in Asia, please sign and share this Change.org petition by Sahiyo and 32 other global organisations!)

(If you are a media professional interested in covering Sahiyo’s survey or other aspects of Khatna among Dawoodi Bohras, do read Sahiyo’s detailed Media Resource Guide on how to sensitively report on Khatna – we created it especially for you!) 

Invest in ending FGC in Asia: Why Sahiyo and 33 organisations are petitioning the U.N.

(TO READ AND SIGN THE PETITION, CLICK HERE

According to the United Nations, at least 200 million women in 30 countries have been subjected to Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). However, these statistics are largely restricted to sub-Saharan Africa and ignore the global scope of the issue. Indonesia, where half the girls under age 11 have undergone FGC, was included in the U.N’s list of 30 countries as recently as 2016. This official data still leaves out a large number of women from other countries – particularly in Asia – where FGC has been reported.

FGM/C is known to occur in India, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Maldives, Brunei, Russia (Dagestan), Bangladesh, and IranYet, Asian countries fall outside the scope of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme to Accelerate the Abandonment of FGM/C.  As a result, almost no resources have been invested to collect data and provide support services to women and girls who are affected by this violation of their human rights in these countries.

For the first time ever, the United Nations has prioritized the elimination of FGM/C under the goal of achieving gender equality as part of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) a 15-year plan to help guide global development and funding in the “areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet”.

But how can this particular SDG be met by 2030, if no resources are devoted to understanding the nature and prevalence of FGC amongst Asian communities both in Asia and amongst diaspora populations migrating from these countries all over the world? How can we advance gender equality if we are not inclusive of every country where FGC is reported, even if it is only anecdotally?

Currently, no national or representative data exists in these countries, meaning that potentially millions of girls and women are being left out of the statistic. Millions of little girls are being forgotten. This oversight has, unfortunately, has also led to a lingering misconception that FGC takes place only in Africa and certain parts of the Middle East.

Yet, in 2015, when Sahiyo pursued a small scale online study to understand the extent of FGC amongst the Dawoodi Bohras, we found that FGC was practiced amongst 80% of the community’s women. 

FGC in Asian communities has largely been ignored by the international agencies primarily because there is minimal research and evidence to show the extent of the practice. Without this vital data collection, it is difficult to pass legislation and policies to end FGC, to design outreach and education programmes and also to train social workers, health professionals and child welfare personnel on how to recognize, respond to and intervene sensitively in cases of FGC.   

This is why Sahiyo and 33 other civil society organisations from across the world are now petitioning the U.N. to take the issue of FGM/C in Asia more seriously.

This Change.org petition calls upon the global community, particularly the United Nations, international foundations and donor countries/agencies, to put in more funding, support, and resources towards research, data collection, advocacy and survivor-centred support facilities in the above-mentioned Asian countries.  

As we begin 2017, we believe it would be wonderful if the international community can take this up as a New Year’s resolution in our collective journey towards ending FGC.

TO READ AND SIGN THE PETITION, CLICK HERE

The coalition of organisations that have co-signed the petition are:

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First Online Study on Khatna Conducted by Sahiyo

First Online Study on Khatna Conducted by Sahiyo

In 2015, Sahiyo embarked on a mission to better understand the extent, purpose, and impact of the practice of khatna of FGC within the Dawoodi Bohras. Acknowledging that this practice is a very personal and sensitive topic within the community, and that almost no one speaks about it, Sahiyo went about gathering data in a culturally sensitive manner, and allowed for survey respondents to answer questions about khatna anonymously.

The data was  gathered in 3-month installments. It began on July 25, 2015, and concluded on January 25, 2016. Over 400 individuals, all who have grown up in the Dawoodi Bohra community, participated in the survey. The data is now being analyzed and a final report will be shared with the public in the coming months.

The sole intention of this research was to shed light on the extent of the practice within the community, and to address the misconceptions and lack of information surrounding the continuation of this age-old practice, which is not often talked about in social circles. It was not the intention of the researchers to discredit or malign any particular community, especially the Dawoodi Bohras.

Researchers hope that by gaining this information, supportive measures based on community responses can be created to help those who may have suffered as a result of khatna/FGC.

If you would like to learn more about the study please e-mail info@sahiyo.com.