To All of You Extraordinary Women Who Survived Female Genital Mutilation, You Are Strong

By: Nada Qamber
Country: Kingdom of Bahrain

The day I heard about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), my jaw dropped. A friend of mine who has grown to become one my closest friends was a victim of this practice. When she told me, my heart broke. I never thought that any culture could do that to their little girls and think that it’s okay. Harming a woman’s gift from the universe is a practice that must be changed across the world. It’s an awful experience to go through at such a young age. Today, I’m not going to bash the cultures that practice this, but praise its strong survivors.

I don’t know much about the communities that practice this requirement, nor do I purely understand their reasons behind it, but I know enough to support the idea that young girls should grow up without experiencing pain like this. Children shouldn’t have to block a horrific memory from their minds and get flashbacks of it later in their lives.

So, I praise you, my fellow women. You have gotten your stems cut off while you were just a flower bud and were left to grow up with a scar that didn’t make sense for so many years. You are still growing.

I praise you, my fellow females. You have gone through a dreadful experience that your mothers forced upon you, and cried until your lungs were sore. You have a voice.

I praise you, my fellow ladies. You fought your mothers, your grandmothers, your aunts, and the person who did this to you. You have courage.

I praise you, my fellow badass warriors. You know that you cannot change what happened to you but you are fighting to change the lives of young girls after you. You are fierce.

Finally, I praise you, fellow beauties, for your growth, your voice, your courage, and your strength to fight to change the minds of the force-makers, the religious leaders, the head of the household, and most of all, fight for the lives of young girls. You have power.

Coming in as an outsider who was fortunate to be spared from this practice, my heart goes out to all of you who went through this experience, and I pray that all of us together are strong enough to make a change and let future girls live a fruitful childhood.

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Seeing Sahiyo Stories on Female Genital Cutting Come to Life

By Mariya Taher

As an alumni of the Women’s Foundation of California’s Women’s Policy Institute, I was invited to attend a storytelling workshop hosted by StoryCenter in March 2017, in which I created a digital video story about my advocacy work to end Female Genital Cutting (FGC). I advocate against FGC because for centuries, women have been afraid to speak up–they fear being socially ostracized from their community, being labeled a victim, or getting their loved ones in trouble. For too long, a silence on this form of violence has existed within this country.  

I strive to be one of the individuals who continues to break that silence.

The result from the workshop was Shattered Silences, a video discussing my experience as a survivor of FGC and the power of storytelling in inspiring other women and men to come forward and speak against this harmful practice that has persisted for generations because of our community’s silence.

After participating in the workshop, and after seeing my video go live, I felt much pride in knowing I had shared my story, and most importantly, I felt that I had gained control over how I told my story. Since 2016, as my work on FGC has increased, and my name has become more publicly associated in media articles related to FGC, I have seen again and again how my story has been taken out of context and told by others in a way that at times has felt exploitive, or not quite right. (Watch American Survivors of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting Speak Out ). Creating Shattered Silences allowed me to take back agency over my story, which I had seen used to promote Islamaphobia and anti-immigrant fear, and tell it in a way that felt comfortable and in line with the message I wanted to share with others.

I began to wonder that if I felt that way, then perhaps other women and girls living in communities where FGC occurs might also feel that way. Soon after I had the idea of hosting a StoryCenter workshop focused on FGC, to bring together other women living in the U.S. who have been affected by FGC or who have family members who have been affected by FGC, and who wanted to lend their voices to ending this harmful practice in the United States, and globally.

Most people falsely believe FGC exists only in other parts of the world, and could never occur in the United States. But in April 2017, that misconception was shattered when a Detroit doctor was arrested for performing FGC on two seven-year-old girls. This doctor belonged to the same religious sect, Dawoodi Bohra, I grew up in, and the case showed that though laws banning the practice exist, FGC does continue to affect women living in the U.S.

I also wanted to show that FGC affects U.S. residents who come from all different backgrounds (economic, religious, education level, racial/ethnic, etc.).

For the next year, I fundraised to do just such a thing, and in May 2017, I called on my family, friends, and community to help bring an end to the silence around FGC and the practice by donating to a campaign to allow more women living in the United States to produce and share their stories publicly. The campaign raised close to $8,000, and in the fall of 2017, the Wallace Global Fund came onboard to provide an additional $10,000 to ensure that the women’s stories would be distributed far and wide.

Finally, in May 2018, with support from Sahiyo volunteers, I hosted the workshop with Amy Hill from StoryCenter, Orchid Pusey from Asian Women’s Shelter, and nine women from all over the country, who came together to create digital storytelling videos. The participants included a mixture of women differing in race/ethnicity, age, and citizenship/residency status, yet the one thing we all have in common is that we live in the United States. The women included Renee Bergstrom, Zehra Patwa, Maria Akhter, Salma Qumruddin, Maryah Haidery, Leena Khandwala, Aisha Yusuf, Severina Lemachokoti, and myself.

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The three day digital storytelling workshop at StoryCenter allowed these women (who are now my friends and allies in the work to end FGC) to come together in a supportive environment where we could heal and reclaim the piece of ourselves that was lost when we underwent FGC or learned of others in our family who experienced it. Every woman was at a different phases of coming to terms with FGC, from only recently learning they had undergone it and beginning to grapple with its emotional and physical impacts, to being staunch advocates working to prevent FGC from happening to other girls, and their digital stories reflect it. Our joint hope in creating the videos is that by telling our stories, we will move towards building that critical mass of voices needed to prompt social change and demonstrate that in every community where FGC occurs, there is an increasing trend of support for abandoning this harmful practice.

As a writer who has loved words since I first learned how to read, I know how powerful stories are in creating change in the world. They spark our emotions and wake us up to our reality. Too often in everyday life, we try and connect with each other on a rational level, but this isn’t always enough to change behavior. People must be emotionally engaged to understand what needs to be done. StoryCenter’s digital storytelling platform allowed women to be the creators in sharing their stories in the manner they feel most comfortable with.

Currently, the videos are in post-production, but when they are ready to be shared broadly, we all hope that our stories will engage the broader community so that we can all ensure that FGC does not happen to the next generation of girls. We’re working on creating partnerships with various organizations and groups to host screenings of the stories and to support workshop participants in attending those events so that they can be present to answer any questions arising from the audiences. After all, these stories are theirs, making the women who created the digital stories the best teachers of all in learning how to support survivors and end female genital cutting once and for all.

Learn More about Sahiyo Stories here.

If you would like more information about Sahiyo Stories or to host a screening with the videos, contact mariya@sahiyo.com.

We did a project on FGC in college and learned our Bohra Classmates had undergone it too

By Rachael Alphonso, Green Madcaps

City: Mumbai, India

I’m no fan of Vogue, so I was wondering what the face of a pretty African model, Waris Dirie, was doing on the cover of my favourite Reader’s Digest. ‘Desert Flower’, the title said. Her photo betrayed no sign of what she had suffered in her childhood – Female Circumcision or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).

‘Circumcision’ – wasn’t it something only men had to undergo? How was it physically possible for women? And why? Having read the Bible and references to the Torah, I had never found any reference to women needing circumcision. So what was this all about?

I read the article, “….a sharp stone…I felt the sting…my flesh was being torn away…no anaesthetic….” I couldn’t imagine the pain!

Had it not been the Reader’s Digest, I would not have believed it! Because of her ‘circumcision’, menstruation for Waris was utterly painful. She could not have a steady flow which resulted in painful cramps. Soon, she was married to a man a few decades her senior who would have to tear open the skin over his wife’s vagina to be able to penetrate her during sex. Childbirth would be worse.

I was stunned reading about it, and when my group in college was asked to do a project I was quick to gain support from my group to investigate this topic. We began our research. Our discussions and debates within the group, despite all efforts, became one-sided simply because we believed that nothing ever could justify the genital mutilation that Waris or any other girl suffered as a result of the circumcision. We could not find any medical or rational evidence that supported the idea.

But the perpetrators of FGM continued to say it was done for the ‘benefit’ of the women and that women’s sexuality needed to be tamed. Men ‘simply fell for it’ [sex], and men could not control themselves, so women had to be controlled. We found this argument had taken different forms in different cultures, emerging into practices that control women and make them believe they are nothing more than their sexual organs, nothing more than a womb that bears children.

We presented this topic to the rest of our class, and were proud of ourselves for doing so. Unconsciously, we also believed we were less affected by FGM because we also believed FGM could not happen in India.

We were wrong.

After our presentation we learned that many of our classmates were victims of ‘khatna’– a practice by which a piece of the clitoral hood is removed. Our classmate told us that the reason given by her religious leaders was that if a woman found pleasure in her sexual organs she would go on a rampant sexual orgy with anybody. Her sexual urges needed to be controlled so her morality was ensured. Their justification for khatna was also aligned with their belief that because men cannot control their sexual urges, women must remain covered and ‘decently’ dressed.

The classmate who spoke of her own khatna and her cousin’s ‘khatna’ revealed that when they experience sex, they most likely would not be able to experience the clitoral orgasmand/or sex would seem slightly sensitive, but that’s all in terms of ill effects.

She also informed us that nowadays, painkillers are used, and the procedure is done by a qualified medical professional. My group realized that she was made to believe that khatna was good for her, the harm nonexistent, as long as the cutting was done using the correct instruments and anesthetics.Later, we realized that many women may be traumatized by their experience but they are unable to speak about it, because they may not recognize they have a right to do so

While Nigeria banned FGM in early 2016 – something that my presentation group and I heralded as a great move – we also learned that the Bohra leaders in India announced ‘khatna’ as a necessary part of their religion. The leaders claim it was meant for cleanliness, but to me, it is clear that the clitoris is in no need of surgical manipulation for cleanliness. What I find most interesting is that these ‘rules’ and ‘announcements’ were made by men (as the Bohra religious authorities are all men) who themselves do not possess a vagina and know little about the care of one.

Millions of women have survived without undergoing khatna. My friends and I are among them. Then why are my Bohra sisters forced to believe otherwise? Who made these rules? Does the rule-maker have a vagina?

(The original article appears on Green Madcap’s blog.)

Rachael Alphonso is a life-long learner, a feminist and an environmentalist.

My inner healing at Sahiyo’s Activist Retreat in the U.S.

By Anonymous

Country: United States
Age: 34

To be honest, it was hard for me to make the decision to go to the Sahiyo Activist Retreat earlier this year. I grew up in the Dawoodi Bohra community in India, and having had my share of challenges with the community that involved threats to my family, I felt like I didn’t have the courage within me to start another battle that involved me fighting against FGM/khatna. But I knew deep down inside that none of my battles with my community had ever ended, and if I stopped speaking up now, another girl somewhere else would have to suffer like me.

I have been away from India for the last 7 years, and it took a retreat like this one for me to realise that I had not interacted with a single person from within the Bohra community here in the US since I moved here, and how much I had missed that. My only experiences of being with other Bohra women was in India, either at a religious prayer service or ceremony or at a Bohra women’s ‘meneej’ (kitty party) group that I was forced into by my mother and friends. I had never had an opportunity to be in a room full of Bohra women, where we could have an open, honest and authentic discussion about the challenges women faced in the community, and identify ways we could empower each other, stand up against the injustices done to us, and fight for change within the community. The Sahiyo Activist Retreat allowed for that and much more.  

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Since most of my experiences were in India, I was keen on learning about how the community functioned here. And through my very first interactions and impressions, I knew that it was no different here and that the community was as strict, perhaps even more here than in India. It was also clear from the start that every single woman present in the room including myself, had shared hopes from the retreat; to find a space where we could openly share our FGM /khatna stories, to build a strong support group, to gain knowledge and tools to confidently speak up against FGM/khatna, and most importantly, to find a space to heal.

The agenda for the two-day workshop was packed but allowed enough time for us to bond with each other, and my healing began almost immediately. The workshop had a bottom-up approach, wherein each participant got to share their stories and all the work that they had already been doing to end FGM/ khatna in the community. The sessions that followed helped us further our knowledge and understanding of FGM/Khatna by providing us with in-depth studies and evaluations, effective communication tools, and defining ways to support activists inside and outside the community worldwide.

The discussion that stood out for me the most was the one that focused on community and survivor-led movements, and the importance of having Bohra men and women from within the community fighting to end FGM/khatna. I have always believed that for any change to truly take place, all the effort and groundwork needs to happen by individuals who represent the community, who understand the systems, history, culture, and nuances of the community, and that means each one of us Bohra men and women. If we want to end FGM/Khatna, each one of us needs to take leadership and ownership of this problem. Men need to become allies for women, and women need to become allies for other women in the community.

Copy of IMG_3784Through breakout sessions and one-on-one conversations, we came up with action plans and ways in which each one of us could contribute to this movement. And of course there were informal post-dinner ramblings, debates and heated discussions on FGM/khatna, and many other women’s issues faced by us in the community.

Three months later, I sit with this fire within me that began during the retreat. I find myself more at ease when talking about FGM/khatna with friends and work colleagues. I still haven’t been able to openly talk about it, for I fear the backlash my parents will face in the community in India, but I’m confident that that will also change someday. I am now helping coordinate logistics for a storytelling workshop that will educate and empower 8 women participants to become powerful and effective storytellers. I am also excited to organize a ‘thaal pe charcha event during the summer with the hope to bring both, women and men, to have an informal dialogue about FGM/khatna, and learn from the findings provided by Sahiyo.

Lastly, my inner healing that began during the retreat continues to change me in positive ways. It is allowing me to let go of my past, and channel my energy to be a better activist, to not dwell in self-pity, but to become a strong ally and force of change within the community.

Break the Silence on FGC Soumou in New York

From March 24-25th, Sahiyo Cofounder, Mariya Taher, spoke on Fireside Conversation – Seeing is Believing: Story Telling and Media Engagement to end FGM,” during the Break the Silence Soumou in New York City organized by There is No Limit Foundation. The event was held in commemoration of Women History Month and the United Nations 62nd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62). A “Soumou” is a Malinke word for “gathering.” Traditionally, the Soumou is an opportunity for building unity, creating a collective goal, and remembering the past through storytelling. It is also a moment to dream about the future and to learn lessons that will lead to realizing the dream. This was the goal of Break The Silence Soumou. The weekend included workshops, strategy sessions, and cross-sectional movement building aimed at ending FGC in the U.S..and at unifying grassroots organizations, as well as, survivors, and allies in the movement to end FGC.

Storytelling with Sahiyo: Four actors narrate FGC survivor stories at a unique event

On March 16, Sahiyo partnered with Women in Film and Television International India to organise its first-ever on-ground storytelling event in Mumbai, India. The event, titled “Storytelling with Sahiyo”, featured four critically-acclaimed Indian film actors who performed narrative readings of the personal stories of four Female Genital Cutting survivors. The event was led and hosted by Sahiyo co-founder Insia Dariwala, along with WIFT founder Petrina D’Rozario.

The actors — Rasika Dugal, Sobhita Dhulipala, Plabita Borthakur and Dolly Thakore — read the stories of survivors Fatema, Insiya, Samina and an anonymous mother who regrets getting her daughter cut. The stories highlighted the different ways in which FGC affects women who are cut and the difficult decisions that mothers often have to make when they are caught between tradition and the desire to protect their daughters.

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After the emotional readings, which left some audience members in tears, three of the survivors present at the event were felicitated by the actors. This was followed by a panel discussion with the survivors, who talked about why they decided to share their stories and what kind of backlash they face in the community for speaking out.

The event also included a second panel discussing Women and their Changing Narratives, in which women filmmakers Insia Dariwala, Priya Goswami, Petrina D’Rozario, Tanuja Chandra and Dolly Thakore discussed the mainstreaming of women’s issues through the medium of film.

Calling for Visual Artists, Musician, Sound Designers, to assist with Sahiyo Stories Project in the U.S.

This May, 2018 Sahiyo Cofounder, Mariya Taher, will be working with StoryCenter on a digital storytelling project to capture the stories of women who have been experienced or affected by FGM/C. Here is an example of the story format that will be used — simple voiceover narration paired with images and video clips. The stories will be shared as a way of bringing attention to the need to end this practice, which continues to harm women and girls around the world.

Sahiyo and StoryCenter are looking for talented visual artists (illustrators, photographers, videographers) to develop original visual images to use in the short videos that participants will be creating. They are also looking for talented sound designers and musicians who might be willing to contribute original music to include in the videos.

The workshop will be in Berkeley, California, however, photographers and videographers do not necessarily need to be at the workshop; they might shoot creative b-roll video in their own locations, of scenes/things other than the storytellers.

However, they are also considering the possibility of asking workshop participants to take part in short interviews so we capture how the experience of how the workshop is going for each of them. In this case, one videographer would need to be present at the workshop in May. If that person also wanted to help shoot some b-roll on site, that would be welcomed.

If you or someone you know is interested in participating and supporting this important project, please contact Mariya at mariya@sahiyo.com.

Please note that due to limited funds, Sahiyo Stories is seeking individuals who may be able to provide assistance on a pro-bono basis (though there may be a slight possibility of providing a small stipend). Sahiyo and StoryCenter would, of course, would ensure that your contribution is properly credited in our project (and on the participant videos produced).

To learn more about the project, click here.

To see an example of StoryCenter Video, click below

I Said It Loudly: I am an FGM Survivor. Meeting FGM Survivors for the First Time Was My Cursed Blessing

(Note: The following blog was written by a survivor who attended a meeting, the topic of which was on mental health and FGC. Her story highlights the power of storytelling and how it helps break the isolation that many survivors experience in having undergone FGC and dealing with their trauma afterwards, an isolation that Sahiyo is attempting to break via the storytelling work we engage in with communities.)

By Anonymous

Country: Egypt & United States

Even now, despite my brain trying to convince me it was a good idea to attend a conference on FGM and Mental Health, I cannot emotionally explain what really happened that day. The conference consisted of FGM survivors, human rights advocates, therapists, and policymakers, and almost two weeks after having attended, I started to have stronger flashbacks of the terrible experience I underwent with FGM in my home country, Egypt. I have mixed feelings of love, support, and pain for having attended that conference.

My journey dealing with that horrible experience started in my home country where my rights as a human being were violated without my consent. I was bleeding and almost died having been operated upon twice. Even now, I cannot easily write these words. You may wish to read my full story published here.

The experience of meeting with other survivors from India and other countries was something I strongly needed to help bring me face to face with the many answers to the many questions in my mind regarding why I experienced so much anxiety, sadness, depression, panic, and fear after my cutting. I wanted to know how other survivors had dealt with their FGM especially those who spoke up about it publicly, such as (Mariya Taher, Leyla Hussien, Jaha Dukureh , Naima Abdulhadi, and others) ; I am relatively new to openly talking about it and I still feel as if I am climbing a mountain when trying to share or speak about it. I heard these women saying how it was and is still difficult; and listening to them has helped me to feel that I am not alone in my experience. I saw how powerful the pain of this experience can be, but at the same time was inspired by the courage of what they and I were determined to do. To speak up about FGM openly and to try to prevent it from happening to other girls.

That meeting was the first time I met with and spoke to other survivors from different countries, such as the United Kingdom, Gambia, India, not to mention the United States. At the time, I felt happy that this meeting could serve as a comfort zone for me, knowing others understood what I had gone through. Seeing all those women in that room encouraged me to say amongst the group of almost forty members that I too am a FGM SURVIVOR. I knew these women would not shame me and I did not need to fear being labeled, judged, or threatened for publicly admitting I was a survivor. My heart was beating and my breath was short as if I had climbed a mountain. I thought I was ok during the 8-hour meeting, yet I collapsed and burst into tears at the end; I cannot precisely tell you why, but I thought about how it is unfair that our bodies and souls are violated with this harmful crime. Most of the time I feel sad that I had to go through these painful thoughts, feelings, or flashback of the operation room and after. It feels like I am being retraumatized when something happens to trigger the original trauma of FGM.  

I beg every mom and dad to see their daughters as beautiful souls who do not need to be cut to be pure. I am Muslim, and I can say it strongly, clearly, and angrily: Do not make it religious because it is not. My body was not supposed to be violated in this severe way nor was my soul. Yet, both happened. But I am comforted in knowing that there are others who I can talk to who understand my pain. FGM is a crime and more work needs to be done with healthcare professionals, as well as policy makers. Girls must be protected from being cut and survivors should be supported with the needed assistance to help them heal.

My Sahiyo U.S. Activists Retreat Reflection

By Maryah Haidery

Growing up as a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Community in the United States is a challenging experience, especially for women. It’s like precariously walking across a tightrope while trying to balance two vastly different worlds. In one world, there are the positive benefits that come from belonging to a community rich with tradition and ritual, with a strong emphasis on family. In the other world, there are the progressive ideas that come from living in a country (United States) whose core values emphasize reason and individualism and women’s rights. Usually, those of us who grew up here in the U.S. can find a way to reconcile the two worlds, but certain Bohri practices like khatna or FGC can make that very difficult and force those of us who really care about the values in the U.S. world to call into question everything we knew or thought we knew about the first world, the Bohra world.

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When I realized that I was cut as a child and that this practice was not common among other girls, not even most other Muslim girls, I felt very isolated and “different”. The isolation was made more acute because khatna was a subject that was never spoken about, not even among other girls who were my age. When my sister first told me about the existence of groups like Sahiyo and We Speak Out, I finally felt like I was not alone, and by telling my story of undergoing khatna, I could start the process of healing and perhaps give a voice to those of us who are not yet ready to share their stories.

It was in this spirit that I attended the first ever Sahiyo activist retreat this past January. I wanted to meet the brave women who had been the first to speak out openly against FGC and who allowed the rest of us to finally have a platform to do so. I also wanted to learn more about the medical, legal and religious aspects of the practice so that I could talk about it with both the media and members of the community in a way that was challenging the practice without necessarily denigrating the people who chose to practice it.

IMG_3915.jpgThe retreat was so much more gratifying than anything I had expected. The retreat helped me to learn quite a lot about khatna, the power of storytelling and the challenges that FGC activists face. But more importantly, the retreat helped me learn quite a bit about myself and my need to feel validated and heard. The women I met at the retreat differed vastly in their ages and backgrounds. Some were from conservative jamaats [congregations] and some were from what I consider more liberal jamaats. Some were still pretty active in the community and others less so. Some felt ready to publicly share their stories, others were less comfortable. But they all had a story I could relate to in some way and they all shared a commitment to help end this practice for the next generation of Bohri girls.

For me, speaking out about a practice like FGC has sometimes been challenging. Sometimes it has felt like the media and certain political groups have used my story to further their political motives while additionally, people in the community I care about have attacked me for being a traitor. It’s a journey that has felt scary and demoralizing and frustrating as much as the journey has felt empowering and worthwhile. That’s why being a part of this January retreat and learning that I was not alone in this journey was such a priceless experience.

To learn more about the U.S. Bohra Activist Retreat, read the report!

બોહરાઓ વચ્ચે આધુનિક્તાની ખોટી માન્યતા

આ આર્ટિકલ પહેલા સહિયો દ્વારા તારીખ 11 મે 2017ના રોજ અંગ્રેજીમાં પ્રકાશિતકરવામાં આવ્યો હતો. Read the English version here.

લેખક: અનામી

ઉંમર : 33
જન્મનો દેશ : ભારત
વર્તમાન નિવાસસ્થાન : અમેરિકા

હું દાઉદિ બોહરા કુટુંબમાં જન્મેલો મરદ છું. યુનાઈટેડ સ્ટેટ્સમાં મારો અને મારા ભાઈનો ઉછેર એકદમ સામાન્ય રીતે થયો છે. અમે અમેરિકાના એક ખૂબ જ ધર્મનિરપેક્ષ મંડળના સભ્યો હતા. મારા માતા-પિતા હંમેશા મને કહેતા કે અમે કેવી રીતે અન્ય મુસ્લિમો કરતા અલગ હતા. અમારો સમાજ અમારા દીકરાઓ અને દીકરીઓના શિક્ષણ ને મહત્વ આપતા. આપણા સમાજમાં ઘણા બૈરાઓ વ્યાપાર કરે છે, ડૉક્ટરો છે  અને પોતે ઘરખર્ચ ઉપાડે છે. અમે વહાબી તો નથી જ.

મને સ્પષ્ટ રીતે યાદ છે કે મારા “મિસાક” લેવાના સમયે, હું મારા માતા-પિતા સાથે “20/20” ન્યૂઝ પ્રોગ્રામનો એક એપિસોડ જોતો હતો. તેનો એક ભાગ સોમાલિયાના ફીમેલ જેનિટલ મ્યુટિલેશન વિષે હતો. અમે તે પૂરો ભાગ જોયો અને રૂમમાં શાંતિ પ્રસરી ગઈ… જ્યારે તમે માતા-પિતા સાથે ફિલ્મ જોતા હો અને પ્રેમનું દ્રશ્ય આવે ત્યારે જેવી મૂંઝવણ અનુભવો તેવી મૂંઝવણ થવા લાગી. મારા માતા-પિતા શા માટે શરમ મેહસુસ કરતા હતા તે મને સમજાયું નહિં પરંતુ, થોડા દિવસો પછી બધા તે બાબતને ભૂલી ગયા.

 

દશ વર્ષ પછી, હુંએક દાઉદિ બોહરા બૈરી સાથે લાગણી સભર સંબંધ ધરાવતો હતો (જે અત્યારે મારી પત્ની છે). પહેલી વાર જ્યારે અમે સંભોગ કરતા હતા ત્યારે તેણી ખૂબ જ રડવા લાગી. તેણી સાથે શું કરવામાં આવ્યું હતુ તે વિષે મને વાત કરી. જ્યારે તેણીએ કૉલેજમાં આ બાબત વિષે સાંભળ્યું ત્યાં સુધી તેણીને પોતાને ખબર નહોતી કે તેની સાથે શું કરવામાં આવ્યું છે. જ્યારે તે પ્રક્રિયા તેણી પર કરવામાં આવી ત્યારે તેણીએ પગના અંગૂઠા સુધી પીડા આપતો વીજળીનો જટકો મહેસુસ કર્યો પરંતુ, હું એ પ્રથમ વ્યક્તિ હતો જેણે એ તરંગનીઅસરમેહસુસ કરી હતી. તેણી ડરી ગઈ હતી અને કંઈક ગુમાવ્યાની લાગણી અનુભવતી હતી.તેણીની ખૂબ ઈચ્છા હતી કે મારી સાથે સંભોગ માણી સંબંધોને ગાઢ બનાવે પરંતુ, તેવું ક્યારે થઈ શક્યું નહિં. એક સંપૂર્ણ બૈરી તરીકેની તેણીની ક્ષમતા સાથે એ સુખ, યુવાવસ્થામાં જ તેણીની મરજી વિના છીનવી લેવામાં આવ્યું હતુ. અમે સાથે મળી તેનો સામનો કર્યો. મેં તેણીનું કાઉન્સેલિંગ કરાવ્યું અને તેણીને ફરી ખાતરી આપી કે આપણો પ્રેમ વધુ મજબૂત થશે પરંતુ, તેણી અને હું બન્ને જાણતા હતા કે એ ક્ષણે તેણીએ જે ગુમાવ્યું છે તે ક્યારેય કોઈપણ વ્યક્તિ પાછું આપી શકશે નહિં.

અંતે, “20/20”ની એ ક્ષણ મને સમજમાં આવી. બે દિકરાઓ ધરાવતા મારા માતા-પિતાએ ક્યારેય તેમના બાળકોમાં શારીરિક બદલાવ કરવા જેવો પીડાદાયક નિર્ણય કરવો પડ્યો નહોતો પરંતુ, સ્પષ્ટ રીતે કહું તો જો અમે બન્ને ભાઈઓ માંથી કોઈ એક દિકરી હોત તો આ પ્રક્રિયાને અનુસરવા માટે જબરદસ્ત દબાણ કરવામાં આવ્યું હોત. સમાજ તેની ખોટી વાતો ફેલાવે છે કે એ “તમારા સુખી લગ્ન જીવન માટે છે”, “તમે સારી પત્ની બની શકો તે માટે છે.” પાછળથી મારા માતા-પિતા પાસેથી મને જાણવા મળ્યું કે મારા કુટુંબની બધી દિકરીઓ પર આ પ્રક્રિયા કરવામાં આવી છે. હું આ વાત માની શક્યો નહિં. જ્યારે તમારા 50% બાળકો મધ્યયુગની પ્રથાનો ભોગ બની રહ્યાં છે તો શા માટે તમે આધુનિક્તાનો મુખોટો પહેરીને ફરો છો? જો તમારી સંપૂર્ણ આધ્યાત્મિક બનવાની પૂર્વ શરત તેમના માટે શારીરિક કમી હોય તો બૈરાઓની સ્વતંત્રા સાથે છેડછાડ કરવાનું બંધ કરો.

મારી સુંદર પત્નીએ મને ઘણુ બધું શીખવ્યું છે. તેણીએ મને માફ કરવાનું અને શક્તિ આપવાનું શીખવ્યું છે. જો હું મારી પત્નીની જગ્યાએ હોત તો ચોક્કસ મેં તેનો વિરોધ કર્યો હોત.સમય આવી ગયો છે કે બધા દાઉદિ બોહરા સાથે મળીને આ મુદ્દાનો ઉકેલ લાવે.આ પ્રક્રિયા આસ્થા પર એક કલંક છે.ઈસ્લામમાં તેનું કોઈ સ્થાન નથી, તે આપણા બૈરાઓને ભરપાઈ ના થઈ શકે તેવી હાનિ પહોંચાડે છે અને આ પ્રક્રિયા, આપણે આધુનિક અને નમ્ર મુસ્લિમો હોવાનો દાવો કરીએ છીએ તેનાથી વિપરીત છે. આ મુદ્દાને અંધકાર માંથી પ્રકાશમાં લઈ આવવાનો સમય આવી ગયો છે.