Female Genital Cutting charges dismissed but our work continues: Global reactions to Michigan case news

By Sahiyo

On November 20, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman dismissed the female genital cutting charges in the historic Michigan case involving girls from the Dawoodi Bohra sect, emphasizing that FGC should be regulated by states as a “local criminal activity.” Congress enacted the 22-year-old federal law banning FGC in 1996 — the law Judge Friedman has declared unconstitutional.

Charges were dropped against two Michigan doctors, Dr. Jumana Nagarwala and Dr. Fakhuruddin Attar, and six others accused of subjecting at least nine minor girls to FGC. However, Dr. Nagarwala, Dr. Attar and his wife, Farida, and a mother remain charged with conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. Dr. Nagarwala is also charged with conspiracy to travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.

In light of these developments, we would like to share the responses of many Bohras and other activists working to end FGC.

“What is so disappointing to me is that justice will be delayed in this case. There is a growing, global movement against khafz/FGC and we need positive judgments to send a strong message to our community that this practice is harmful and illegal. We must protect future generations of Bohra girls.”
~ Farzana Doctor, Canada  

“By declaring the federal ban on FGM/C unconstitutional, Judge Friedman opens the door for parents to do exactly what was done in this case — take their daughters from states that ban FGM/C to states that don’t so they can be cut.”
~ Umme Kulsoom Arif, USA

“The ruling on the jurisdiction of this case is giving some folks a perceived green light to proudly say that khatna/khafz/FGM/C is not illegal in the US after being afraid to say it out loud after Nagarwala was arrested. But people should understand that there are many state laws still in place (including in Michigan now) and the judge said that FGM/C is a ‘criminal activity’ so parents beware. This does not give you permission to cut your daughters. It will be a regrettable time in history if there is an uptick in the practice of FGM/C in the US because of this technicality in the jurisdiction of this case.”
~ Zehra Patwa, United States

“Shameful really! While 30 other countries have made FGM illegal, US, the supposed defender of human rights, has just shown the world what American justice is…women’s rights are not just not important for the federal court.”
~ Saleha, Canada

“Shocking judgment. But at the same time judgment gave us more spirit to work hard and achieve the desired goal to end FGC. To bring social change takes time but nothing is impossible. I’m sure through our collective efforts we will achieve our goal one day.”
~ Chandni Shiyal, India

“While on our climb towards the summit, we are going to face slips and stumbles but the climb must go on…..this judgement though disappointing is a mere stumble or slip….”
~ Fakhera, India

“This judgment is clearly based on a technicality of the federal versus the state jurisdiction. Irrespective, FGC still continues to be a violent act against 7-year old girls. Are we disappointed to hear this decision? Most certainly. However, it’s only a matter of time until people open their eyes and see the truth. Tradition without any logic can only hold its ground so long. Sati used to be tradition too, in this very land. Look where we are now.”
~ Alifya Thingna, India

“One of the most disheartening outcomes of this case is the lack of outrage among our elected officials. Two, recently elected, Muslim women representatives from Michigan and Minnesota (the two states involved) have failed to use their platforms to proactively address this issue. FGM is an issue that affects the safety of women and girls, and constituents in their communities. This decision (and the lack of public outrage) sends a signal to communities who practice FGM that there will be no accountability.”
~ Maryum Saifee, United States

“It’s a sad day for silent seven-year-old girls when there is no clear US law to protect what is truly theirs!”
~ Rashida Rangwala, United States

“I am so disheartened by this decision! It’s actually shocking. I thought at least USA law would give justice to innocent girls.”
~ Alifya Sulemanji, United States

“No little girl in this world should have to go through the trauma of female genital cutting. Cultures should not be empowered to take away the human rights of their members.”
~ Renee Bergstrom, United States

“I feel angry and deeply disappointed. This isn’t over but it’s incredibly discouraging to see our legal system disrespect and let down girls and women being violated in this country.”
~ Lara Kingstone, United States

“यह केस 23 US राज्यो में FGM कानून के अभाव में जीता गया है। यह एक ही टेक्निकल ग्राउंड है। अब यह केस अमेरिकन सुप्रीम कोर्ट में जाएगा। UN कानून के तहत अमेरिका बाध्य है। अब वहां सुप्रीम के आदेश पर फेडरल कानून बन सकता है। कोई भी संघर्स लंबा समय मांगता है कभी जीत कभी हार होती है। हरेक निष्फलता अगली सफलता का बेज़ (फाउंडेशन) बनता है। भारत के कोई राज्य में ऐसा FGM कानून नही है। मगर हम भी UN के सदश्य है। भारत मे भी ऐसा कानून आज नही तो कल बनेगा।”
~ Ibrahim Patel, India

“There are many practices which have been blindly followed from decades. Some of them have been changed, modified or amended in the course of time, with the advancement of research and scientific development. We are just trying to tell the world the actual fact that women undergo suffering with no fault of their own because of FGC.”
~ Insiya Ganjifrockwala, India

“Regardless of the impending appeal, this decision may inevitably embolden many to continue cutting girls. We should take this opportunity to continue to pressure our leaders to stand against FGC as a human rights violation, to bring awareness to the issue, and to protect our girls.”
~ Jenny Cordle, United States

“I would call this verdict as a legislative failure as no justice has been given to the child, and this gives a loophole to people in that country to keep practicing FGC.”
~ Insiya Lokhandwala, India

“This is horrible! As a victim of FGC myself, I really wanted to see this doctor punished and her punishment to set a strong example for others in the community who practice FGC/ khatna thinking it’s the right thing to do. I feel like we women are never going to get justice for the wrongs done to us. What’s more, these wrongs will continue to go on and little girls will continue to be traumatized. It’s so frustrating and just makes me want to scream.”
~ Shabana Feroze, Bahrain

“I am shocked and deeply disappointed that a Federal judge in the USA has lifted the ban on FGM. It is so, so important that the USA as a world leader takes an unequivocal stand on this human rights issue afflicting women and the girl child.”
~ Zarina Patel, Kenya

“As I was reading, ‘Judge dismisses female genital mutilation charges in historic case.’ My blood was boiling. Where’s the justice for these women? What message is our federal government sending out to all doctors, mothers, and members who carry out this act? That it’s okay for them to violate girls without any real consequences. And what message are they sending out to our young girls? That their bodies are up for grabs? Or that what they’re going through doesn’t matter to us. Sad day to say the least!
~ Aisha Yusuf, United States

“I wasn’t sure what to expect from the  Michigan trial but I never dreamed it would get dismissed on a technicality about federal vs state jurisdiction! I don’t know enough about the law to know if the judge’s ruling was correct but I know I’m not going to let this setback keep me from fighting. Let’s all work together to get legislation passed in the 23 states that don’t yet have a law against FGM so this never has to happen again!”
~ Maryah Haidery, United States

Read more at U.S. Court’s dismissal of FGM/C charge in Michigan case is disappointing but does not condone genital cutting.

Read the Amicus Brief for Dr. Nargawala hearing on November 6, 2018, submitted by Equality Now, WeSpeakOut, Sahiyo, And Safe Hands For Girls in support of the United States.

Read the U.S. End FGM/C Network Statement on Judge’s Decision in Michigan Case.


ડેટ્રોઈટના ડૉક્ટરની ગિરફ્તારી, ખતના વિષે વાતચીત કરવા માટેની એક તક છે

(આ આર્ટિકલ પહેલા સહિયો દ્વારા તારીખ 14 મે 2017ના રોજ અંગ્રેજીમાં પ્રકાશિત કરવામાં આવ્યો હતો. Read the English version here.)

લેખક: અનામી

ઉંમર : 33
દેશ : પુણે, ભારત

મારા પર ‘ખતના’ની પ્રક્રિયા કરવામાં આવી હોવાનું મને સ્પષ્ટ રીતે યાદ હોવા છતાં મેં મિસાક લીધા પછી, દાઉદી બોહરા સમાજમાં અપનાવવામાં આવતી આ પ્રથા વિષે મેં પ્રશ્ન કરવાની શરૂઆત કરી. આ પ્રથા હંમેશા ખોટી લાગતી હતી પરંતુ, જો મારી માં, બહેન અને સમાજના લગભગ બધા જ લોકો આ પ્રથાને અપનાવતા હોય ત્યારે હું કેવી રીતે પ્રશ્ન ઉઠાવી શકું?

હું -મસ્જિદમાં જતી, ઉપવાસ કરતી અને મારા પાસે જેવી અપેક્ષા રાખવામાં આવે તે બધું જ કરતી એક નાની આજ્ઞાકારી બોહરા દીકરી હતી.મિસાક લીધા પછી, એક બોહરા બૈરા તરીકે મારા પરની કઠોર મર્યાદાઓમાં વધારો થવા લાગ્યો. ‘ખતના’ વિષે જાણવાની મારી ઉત્સુક્તાને કારણે હું તે વિષેની માહિતી શોધવા લાગી. પરંતુ પ્રામાણિક્તાથી કહું તો ગુગલમાં શું ટાઈપ કરવું તે પણ મને ખબર નહોતી. અંતે ગમે તેમ કરી જ્યારે મેં તે માહિતી શોધી ત્યારે, આફ્રિકામાં થતાં બૈરાઓના જેનિટલ મ્યુટિલેશનના લોહીલુહાણ ફોટાઓથી મારા કૉમ્પ્યુટરની સ્ક્રીન ભરાઈ ગઈ પરંતુ, બોહરા સમાજમાં આ પ્રથા અપનાવવામાં આવી રહી છે તે વિષે બહુ જ થોડી માહિતી હતી અથવા તો તેવી માહિતી ઉપલબ્ધ જ નહોતી. સ્પષ્ટ છે કે બોહરા સમાજમાં આ બાબત વિષે વાત કરવાની મનાઈ હતી પરંતુ, મારી કૉલેજની એક સહિ હતી જે મારી ઉંમરની બોહરા દીકરી હતી અને મનેતેના પર વિશ્વાસ હતો. તેણીએ કહ્યું કે “મને લાગે છે કે જ્યારે આપણે મોટા થશું ત્યારે આપણને કોઈ સમસ્યા આવી શકે છે અને કદાચ આપણે ક્યારેય સેક્સનો આનંદ નહિં લઈ શકીએ.” એ તેણીના જ્ઞાનની મર્યાદા હતી અને તેણી પણ મારા જેટલી જ કનફ્યુઝ હતી. મારા ગુસ્સામાં વધારો થઈ રહ્યો હતો કારણ કેસમાજના ઘણા નિયમો ખાસ કરીને, બૈરાઓ માટેના નિયમો લોજિક વિનાના, જૂનવાણી અને એકદમ બિનજરૂરી હતા અને તે બધામાં ‘ખતના’ પ્રથા સૌથી વધુ ક્રૂર હતી.

મારા પોતાના અનુભવ કરતા, મારી મોટી બહેનની દીકરી જ્યારે સાત વર્ષ (જે ઉંમરે ‘ખતના’ની પ્રક્રિયા કરવામાં આવે છે)ની થઈ તે સમય મારા માટે ખૂબ જ કઠીન હતો. એ બાબત સ્પષ્ટ હતી કે મારી બહેન અને માં બન્ને આ પરંપરાને ચાલુ રાખવાની યોજના કરી રહ્યાં હતા. મારી માસુમ ભત્રીજીને ડરતી જોઈહું એકદમ અસહાય અને નિરાશા મેહસુસ કરી રહી હતી. અંગને કાપ્યાની પછીની રાત્રીએ તેણીને પીડામાં જોઈને મને ખૂબ જ દુઃખ થયું. આ ક્રૂર પ્રથાની આસ્થા ધાર્મિક અને સંસ્કૃતિક રીતે એટલી બધી ઊંડે સુધી છે કે તેને ઉખાડી ફેંકવી ખૂબ જ મૂશ્કેલ છે. જો કોઈ બદલાવ આવવો જોઈએ તો તે સમાજની અંદરથી જ આવવો જોઈએ. પરંતુ, જ્યારે કોઈ એ વિષે બોલવા જ તૈયાર ના હોય તો, કેવી રીતે બદલાવ આવી શકે?

અમેરિકામાં નાની દીકરીઓ પર ‘ખતના’ પ્રક્રિયા કરતા ત્રણ ડૉક્ટરોની ગિરફ્તારીના સમચાર ફેલાઈ રહ્યાં હોય, આપણા માટે એ ખૂબ જ અગત્યનું અને મહત્વપૂર્ણ બની જાય છે કે આપણે સમાજની અંદર તે વિષે એકબીજા સાથે વાત કરીએ. મને ખાતરી છે કે આપણા સમાજની અંદર એક પણ બૈરી એવી નહિં હોય જેણે ક્યારેય આ પ્રથા સામે પ્રશ્ન ઉઠાવ્યો ના હોય. અંતે, કેવી રીતે કોઈ માં ઈચ્છાપૂર્વક પોતાની દીકરીને આવી પીડા સહન કરવા દે? મોઢું ફેરવી લઈ, મિશિગનમાં જે કંઈ થયું તેનાથી આપણે કંઈ લેવા-દેવા નથી એવું માનવાના બદલે, આપણે તે વિષે વાત કરી અને પ્રશ્ન ઉઠાવી, તેનો એક તક તરીકે ઉપયોગ કરવો જરૂરી છે.

આ સમાજમાં હું મોટી થઈ હોવાથી, હું આ સમસ્યાના દરેક પાસાઓને સારી રીતે સમજું છું, કોઈપણ બોહરા આ બાબતમાં વાત કરવા ઈચ્છતા નથી કારણ કે તે ગુપ્ત અંગો અને બૈરીઓના જાતીય અંગોવિષેની વાત છે અને સેક્સ વિષે વાત કરવાનીમનાઈ છે. પરંતુ, કુટુંબીજનો અને મિત્રોના નાના-નાના સમૂહોમાં સાથે મળી આપણે આ જૂનવાણી પ્રથાને ફરી તપાસવી જરૂરી છે. હવે સહિયો જેવી નોન-પ્રોફિટ સંસ્થાઓ ઉપલબ્ધ છે, જે સમાજના લોકોને માહિતગાર અને શિક્ષિત કરવા વચનબદ્ધ છે. એવા ઘણા વૈજ્ઞાનિક ડૅટા ઉપલબ્ધ છે જે સાબિત કરે છે કે આ પ્રથા અપનાવાથી કોઈપણ પ્રકારનો લાભ થતો નથી. આપણાંમાથી જે લોકો ઈચ્છતા હોય તેમણે, મદરસા અને કૉલેજો, અન્ય સામાજીક સંસ્થાઓ અથવા પીટિશન પર સહી કરવા દ્વારા આપણા અનુભવોને શેર કરવાના માર્ગ શોધવા જરૂરી છે. એવી વ્યવસ્થા સામે આપણે આપણો અવાજ બુલંદ કરવો જરૂરી છે, જે સમાજના લોકો માટે ઘાતક હોય અને ‘ખતના’ જેવી ક્રૂર પ્રથા સમાજના લોકો માટે લાભદાયક છે તેવું બ્રેનવૉશ કરે.

પૂરા વિશ્વમાં મારી ઘણી એવીસહિયો છે જેમને નાની-નાની દીકરીઓ છે અથવા તો નજીકના ભવિષ્યમાં તેમને ત્યાં નાના બચ્ચાઓ જન્મ લેશે. અવશ્ય તેઓ તેમની દીકરીઓને પ્રેમ કરે છે અને તેમને આવી ક્રૂરતાનો ભોગ બનવા દેવાનું પસંદ નહિં કરે પરંતુ, રિતરીવાજનું પાલન કરવાની તલવાર માથા પર લટકી રહી હોવાથી, તેની વિરૂદ્ધ ઉભા રહેવાની તાકત બહુ ઓછા લોકોમાં છે. સ્વતંત્ર રીતે વિચાર કરવાનો આપણો અધિકાર છીનવી લેવામાં આવી રહ્યો છે અને આપણે આપણા ધાર્મિક આગેવાનોને પ્રશ્ન કરવાની હિંમત કરતા નથી.પ્રત્યેક દિવસે, વિશ્વભરમાં અનેક દીકરીઓ આ પીડામાંથી પસાર થાય છે અને હંમેશા માટે તેમના જીવનમાં અસરો છોડી જાય છે.સમય ઝડપથી પસાર થઈ રહ્યો છે અને આવી પ્રથા સામે આપણે આપણો અવાજ બુલંદ કરવો જરૂરી છે તેમજ હવે, આ પ્રથાને બંધ કરવા આપણે આપણા ધાર્મિક આગેવાનો સામે માંગ કરવી જરૂરી છે.

The Detroit doctor arrests are an opportunity to talk about Khatna

By: Anonymous

Age: 33
Country: Pune, India

Even though I clearly remember when ‘khatna’ was performed on me, it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I first started to question this practice within the Dawoodi Bohra community. It always felt wrong, but if my mother, sister, and seemingly everyone else in the community embraced it, who was I to question?

I had been an obedient little Bohra girl – attending the mosque, fasting, and doing everything exactly as it was expected of me. As I reached my teens, however, the restrictions I had as a Bohra woman grew ever more oppressive. My curiosity led me to start looking for any information I could find about ‘khatna’ – but to be honest I didn’t even know what to type into Google! When I finally figured it out, gory pictures of female genital mutilation in Africa filled my computer screen, but there was little or no information about it being practiced within the Bohra community. Talking about it within the community was obviously taboo, but I did have a college friend, a Bohra girl my age, who I confided in. “I think we may have some problems when we grow up, and we may never be able to enjoy sex,” she said. That was the limit of her knowledge and she was as confused as I was. My anger continued to grow – many rules within the community, especially for women, were illogical, outdated and absolutely unnecessary. And ‘khatna’ was the cruelest of them all.

More than my own experience, the hardest time for me was when my older sister’s daughter turned seven (the age when ‘khatna’ is performed), and it was clear that my sister and mother were planning to continue the tradition. I felt helpless and hopeless seeing my little niece in fear. Seeing her in pain the night after she was cut saddened me to the core. This cruel ritual was so deeply rooted in religious and cultural beliefs that it would be very difficult to break. If any change had to happen, it had to happen from within the community – but how, when no one was even willing to talk about it?

As news about the three doctors getting arrested for performing ‘khatna’ on young girls in the US spreads far and wide, it becomes urgent and extremely important for us within the community to talk about it. I am sure that there isn’t a single woman in the community who hasn’t questioned this practice at one time or another. After all, how can a mother willingly subject her daughter to this torture? Instead of hiding our heads in the sand and pretending that what is happening in Michigan does not concern us, we need to use this opportunity to talk and question.

Having grown up in the community, I completely understand the nuances of this problem – no Bohra wants to talk about it because it involves a private part, a sexual organ of a woman, and talking about sex is taboo. But we can get together in small groups of family and friends to reexamine this outdated ritual. There are now non-profit organizations, like Sahiyo, committed to creating awareness and educating the community. There is enough scientific data to prove that there is nothing beneficial about this ritual. Those of us that feel strongly need to find avenues to share our experiences, whether it is through schools and colleges, other community organizations, or signing petitions. We need to voice our anger with a system that threatens its people and brainwashes them to believe that gruesome acts like ‘khatna’ are for their betterment.

I have so many Bohra friends across the world who have little girls and others who will have children in the near future. Of course, they love their daughters, and would rather not subject them to this cruelty, but the pressure to conform is stifling and very few have the power to stand up to it. Our right to think independently has been stripped away from us, and we don’t dare to question our religious leaders. Every single day, several girls suffer this torture all over the world – and it affects their lives forever. Time is passing quickly, and we need to rise up and demand that community leaders put an end to this practice NOW.

Female Genital Cutting: Religion has nothing to do with it

By: Anonymous

Country: United States
Age: 34

Around the age of seven, unbeknownst to me at the time, extended family members asked my parents when they would be taking me to have khatna done. In the country we lived in at the time, it was the norm for girls in our community to get it done when they hit that age. My dad opposed this practice vehemently and refused to let it happen to his three girls. In the 1980s, opposing khatna was completely shocking and unconventional, let alone having a father speak his mind. Close family members were told to lie and hide our “secret”.

I myself didn’t uncover this secret until much later as a teenager, when I heard women discussing this thing called ‘khatna’ within family walls. These talks occurred within women-only audiences, where they spoke in code if their 7-8 year-old daughters were in the room with us. Later, I asked mum what this hush hush topic was about and that is when she revealed the secret to me. She also informed me that I should not let anyone know that my sister and I hadn’t been ‘cut’. In those days, my parents would have been social pariah if the truth came out.

Fast forward a few decades later and it hit me that my sisters and I were the only ones, in our entire Bohri side of the family (that I am aware of), who were spared the horror of undergoing what I now know as FGM. Thankfulness and gratefulness isn’t enough for what my father did for us back in the day when he stood up for our rights when no one else would have. I have cousins who regret that it happened to them and a few aunts who regret doing it to their daughters. I now live in the United States and see that this practice still lives on, whether it’s against the law or not, and it hurts me knowing that it is still easy to find a cutter, that mothers of my generation will still ‘cut’ their precious girls because the highest religious office in the community still preaches that it’s the right thing to do.

The Detroit case gives me a glimmer of hope that maybe people within our communities living in the United States will think twice about performing FGM on minors, and that parents will think hard and long before subjecting their girls to this practice. I’m hoping it creates a ripple-effect throughout communities that live here. On the other hand, I know that as long as this practice is encouraged by the leadership, it will continue. Parents will take their children out of this country in an effort to ensure this practice lives because they still think it’s the right thing to do as it is prescribed by our religion and by the leadership of this community. Most seem blinded by the clergy and won’t go against what they prescribe no matter the risk, as this case highlights.

As we speak of religion, this case also gives me shudders because if the legal defense of the doctor who was charged is using religion as a justification to continue and allow FGM, then to the wider world, Islam is to blame. I cringe at the thought of FGM being tied to Islam because there is nothing Islamic about circumcising young girls to curb their sexual desires. If there was anything in Islam about khatna, it would be stated in our Holy Qur’an, which is every Muslim’s ultimate guide to the way we live our lives. If khatna was prescribed by God and mentioned in His book, billions of Muslims around the world would be doing it. There are only a fraction of Muslims around the world that practice FGM, and it stems from a cultural and ritualistic base. I hope that the magnitude of khatna, what it does to a young girl’s psyche and the fact that there is no basis in Islam for khatna, does not pass the ‘religious freedom’ excuse in our court system.


Law alone cannot end the practice of Female Genital Cutting

By Sabiha Basrai

Country: California, United States
Age: 34 years old

It is important that the issue of FGC or Khatna, as known to the Bohra community, is brought out from the shadows and discussed openly. Many people do not understand how brutal the practice is and simply prefer not to discuss it because of the entrenched shame around women’s sexuality and reproductive health that is enforced through patriarchal social structures. I hope that the Detroit case in which a Bohra medical doctor was arrested on charges of performing FGC on minor girls, encourages more families to say no to the practice so that future generations of young girls will be shared.

This harmful practice is not an issue of being religious or not religious. Neither is it an issue of right and wrong. Khatna is just wrong.

The Detroit case does, however, raise concerns about the surveillance of Muslim Americans. Our mosques and community centers are already targeted by law enforcement who racially profile us and infringe upon our civil rights. It is important that all Bohras understand that law enforcement does not necessarily have our best interests in mind and could exploit the issue of Khatna to justify further harassment and surveillance of our communities. Khatna should end, but I believe the practice will only truly end through community education and organizing within the jamaats (Bohra congregations).

None of us want to see violence occur in our communities, but we must be conscious that law alone is not the answer, and in some instances, the negative action of some law enforcement officials have been detrimental to the safety and security in our communities. Therefore, I caution all Bohras living in America to never speak to law enforcement without a lawyer present. And, I encourage Bohras to also find ways to work within the community to end harmful practices such as Khatna.