Voices to End FGM/C Launch: 27 survivors and activists create videos to share their stories

Important links:
Watch the Voices to End FGM/C survivor and activist videos here, as they are released every week.
Read blogs by participants of Voices to End FGM/C by following the “Voices Series” here.

Today, the occasion of the International Day of Zero Tolerance towards Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C), Sahiyo and StoryCenter are proud to announce the release of ‘Voices to End FGM/C’, a series of 27 short videos addressing FGM/C, created by survivors and advocates from countries and communities around the world. 

‘Voices to End FGM/C’ supports women and men impacted by this issue to tell their own stories, through their own perspectives, in their own words. Participants receive training on how to create videos at workshops held either in-person or via webinars.

Says Global Voices Storyteller and FGM/C survivor Su Sun,  “Participating in this storytelling process was for me to be audacious, heal, and denounce how women’s bodies are subjected to violence in many different ways. To share this process with other women was a beautiful process of collective empowerment that allowed us not to be invisible and do so while using our imagination, art, poetry, music, colours.”

The program was first launched in May 2018 as ‘Sahiyo Stories’, when Sahiyo and StoryCenter hosted a residential workshop on digital storytelling for nine FGM/C survivors in Berkeley, California, in the United States. The videos created at that workshop, which have been screened at various events transnationally, can be viewed here.

In 2019, Sahiyo Stories was expanded into the Voices to End FGM/C program, under which two residential workshops were conducted in the U.S. and one webinar-based workshop was conducted for 10 FGM/C survivors living around the world. Most participants in these workshops had not previously shared their personal experiences with FGM/C. They received primary training from StoryCenter, which helped them write their own scripts and curate their own photographs and videos clips to make the finished videos. Some participants also worked in partnership with illustrators/visual artists to aid in the storytelling.

The 27 new digital stories emerging from Sahiyo and StoryCenter workshops will be released every Monday on Sahiyo’s Youtube page at http://bit.ly/VoicesFGMCVideos .

Says Mariya Taher, Sahiyo Co-founder, US Network to End FGM/C Steering Committee Member, Voices to End FGM/C Program Director, and FGM/C Survivor, “I believe that to create change, we have to speak about the harms in our community — and storytelling allows us to do that in a safe and non-judgemental way. The online Voices to End FGM/C digital storytelling workshop has allowed survivors from around the world to connect to each other in a way that truly shows that FGC is a global issue requiring a global response.”

Amy Hill, Silence Speaks Director, StoryCenter,  explains Story Center’s motivation: “StoryCenter remains deeply committed to supporting women’s rights storytelling, through our Silence Speaks program. The partnership with Sahiyo on Voices to End FGM/C is rooted in the importance of creating safe environments where storytellers can forge new understandings of their own life experiences, repair fractured relationships with family members and other loved ones, and establish meaningful, new connections with their peers who are speaking out. Our hope is that collectively, these stories will influence conversations, community action, and policies in ways that ensure future generations of girls are spared.”

એક સાઈકોથેરૅપિસ્ટ તરીકે, હું ક્યારેય ખતનાની ભલામણ નહિં કરું

(This article was first published in English on December 10, 2016. Read the English version here.)

લેખક : અનામી

ઉંમર : 36 વર્ષ

દેશ : ભારત

હું એક માનસિક આરોગ્ય ચિકિત્સક છું અને છેલ્લા 16 વર્ષોથી હું તેનું કાઉન્સેલિંગ અને થેરાપી આપી રહી છું. મારા ઘરનાં લોકો મારી એક કઝિનની સેરિમનિ વિષે બોલતા હતા ત્યારે અનાયાસે જ મને ‘ખતના’(ટાઈપ 1 એફ.જી.એમ.) વિષે જાણવા મળ્યું. હું વધારે માહિતી મેળવવા માંગતી હતી. મને સમજાયું નહિં કે હું પણ તે પ્રક્રિયા હેઠળથી પસાર થઈ હતી. મને વધારે કંઈ યાદ નથી, બસ આટલું કે મને બળતરા થતી હતી અને ત્યારબાદ મારી માં અને નાની દ્વારા તપાસવામાં આવી રહી હતી.

તે એક હરામની બોટી હતી જેને મારા શરીરમાંથી કાઢી નાખવામાં આવી હોવાથી મારે તે વિષે ક્યારેય વાત કરવી જોઈએ નહિં તેવા વાતાવરણમાં હું મોટી થઈ. મને કહેવામાં આવ્યું હતુ કે હવે તુ શુદ્ધ થઈ ગઈ છે. હું મોટી થઈ તેમ મેં સાઈકૉલોજીનો અભ્યાસ કર્યો, હું એફ.જી.એમ. વિષેનો એક આર્ટિકલ વાંચતી હતી ત્યારે અચાનક જ મને સમજાય ગયું કે તે દિવસે મારી સાથે શું બન્યું હતુ. મને ધક્કો લાગ્યો પરંતુ, તેને સ્વીકારવા સિવાય મારી પાસે કોઈ વિકલ્પ નહોતો કારણ કે જે કંઈ બન્યું તેની કોઈ અસર સમજાઈ નહોતી – મારા પ્રગતિશિલ માં-બાપને પણ નહિં.

મારૂં જીવન અન્ય છોકરીઓની જેમ આગળ વધવા લાગ્યું. મારૂં લગ્ન જીવન, ખાસ કરીને સેક્સ પર તેની કોઈ અસર થઈ નહિં. મારૂં સેક્સ્યુઅલ જીવન અને ઑર્ગેઝમ્સ પણ સંતોષપૂર્ણ હતા અને મેં મહેસુસ કર્યું કે મારા પર ખતનાનીં કોઈ મોટી અસર થઈ નહોતી અથવા સાત વર્ષની ઉંમરે હું જે પ્રક્રિયા હેઠળથી પસાર થઈ તેનાં આઘાતનો સામનો કરવા મેં એ બાબતને એકદમ દબાવી દીધી હતી.

જો કે, મને યાદ છે કે બાળકનાં જન્મ સમયે મારે એપિસિઓટોમી પ્રક્રિયા કરાવવી પડી હતી. UNFPA દ્વારા કરવામાં આવેલ એક સ્ટડી અનુસાર, એક સામાન્ય બૈરીની સરખામણીએ જે બૈરી પર જેનિટલ કટિંગની પ્રક્રિયા કરવામાં આવી હોય તેને સિઝેઅરિયન સેક્શન અને એપિસિઓટોમી ની વધારે જરૂર પડે છે અને બાળકનાં જન્મ પછી વધારે સમય હૉસ્પિટલમાં રહેવું પડે છે.

આ વર્ષની શરૂઆતમાં પીઅર સુપરવિઝનમાં, મારી સાથે જે કંઈ બન્યું તેની પ્રક્રિયાને મેં ધીરે-ધીરે સમજી અને તેને જીવનનાં એક ભાગ રૂપે લીધી. મને એ બાબત પાછળથી સમજાઈ કે એફ.જી.એમ. ની અસરો થાય છે. હકીકતમાં તે આત્માને જખમો આપે છે અને આપણને આશ્ચર્ય થાય કે શું આ પ્રક્રિયા કરવી ખરેખર જરૂરી છે.

ખતના પ્રક્રિયા લાંબા સમય સુધી માનસિક તણાવ આપી શકે છે. કુટુંબનાં સભ્યો દ્વારા ભરોસો તોડવાની લાગણીને કારણે તે બચ્ચાઓનાં વર્તનમાં ગરબડ પેદા કરી શકે છે. મોટી છોકરીઓ પણ બેચેની અને તણાવ મહેસુસ કરી શકે છે.

જે આવી બધી બાબતો સમજે છે, તેવા એક મનોચિકિત્સક તરીકે શું હું ખતનાની ભલામણ કરીશ? ના, હું ભલામણ નહિં કરું કારણ કે, મને લાગે છે કે તેનો મુખ્ય હેતુ બૈરીઓની સેક્સ્યુઆલિટી પર નિયંત્રણ લાવવાનો છે. હું તેની વ્યાખ્યા લિંગ આધારીત હિંસા રૂપે કરીશ.

महिला जननांग विकृति के प्रति एक माँ का बहादुर फैसला

(यह लेख पहली बार 23 मई 2017 को अंग्रेजी में साहियो द्वारा प्रकाशित हुआ था. Read the English version here and the Gujarati translation here.)

लेखक: अज्ञात

उम्र: 30
देश: यूनाइटेड स्टेट्स

खतना शब्द और इस प्रथा से मेरा पहली बार आमना-सामना तब हुआ जब मैं 15 साल की थी। मैं एओएल इंस्टैंट मैसेंजर पर एक दोस्त के साथ चैटिंग कर रही थी और उसने मुझे पूछा क्या मेरा कभी खतना हुआ था। उस समय तक, मैं इस प्रथा के बारे में या इस बात से पूरी तरह अनजान थी कि इसे मेरे बोहरा समुदाय में कम उम्र की लड़कियों पर किया जाता है।  मुझे पता नहीं था कि मैं अपनी दोस्त को क्या जवाब दूँ। मैंने सोचा कि शायद मेरा खतना मेरे जन्म होने पर ही किया गया होगा, ठीक वैसे जैसे बच्चे के जन्म पर छट्ठी (नामकरण) या अक़ीका (बकरे की कुर्बानी) किया जाता है।  

मैंने फौरन ही अपनी माँ से खतना के बारे में पूछा और यह भी पूछा क्या उन्होंने मेरा कभी कराया था या नहीं। उनका जवाब था, “नहीं बेटी, मैंने तुम्हारा नहीं होने दिया था।” और अधिक फुसफुसाहट और काफी घबराई हुई आवाज़ में उनहोंने कहा, “लेकिन किसी को बताना नहीं।” मैंने उनका पीछा किया, मैं उनसे पूछ रही थी आखिर यह होता क्या है। मेरी माँ को यह समझाने में मुश्किल हुई कि यह क्या है या यह क्यों किया जाता है। वह कह पाईं कि लड़कियों के “गुप्तांग” में काटा जाता है। उन्होंने आगे कहा कि हाँ, सात साल की उम्र में वह इससे गुजर चुकी थी, लेकिन उनहोंने अपनी बेटियों के साथ ऐसा नहीं होने दिया, क्योंकि उनके खतना ने उनको भयानक शारीरिक और भावनात्मक दर्द दिया था और वो दर्द उनके साथ जीवन भर रहा है।

उस समय, मैं इस बात की अहमियत नहीं समझ पाई कि क्यों मेरी माँ ने मेरे और मेरी बहनों पर खतना नहीं करवाने का फैसला लिया और क्यों वह चाहती थी कि इसके बारे में मैं किसी से कुछ न कहूँ।

खतना के बारे में प्राथमिक जानकारी लेने के कुछ वर्षों बाद, मैं मेरी स्थानीय मस्जिद में औरतों की मीटिंग में थी। किसी ने हमारी मौलवी की बीबी, जिनको बहनसाब कहते हैं, उनसे खतना के बारे में पूछा। बहनसाब ने जवाब़ दिया कि यह औरतों में यौन आनंद को बढ़ाने के लिए किया जाता था और यह समुदाय की सभी औरतों के लिए जरूरी है। मैंने अपनी माँ से कुछ साल पहले इससे ठीक उल्टी बात सुनी थी, और बहनसाब की बातें मुझे चक्कर में डाल रही थीं। हाँ, जब बहनसाब ने कहा कि यह प्रथा सब औरतों के लिए जरूरी थी, तब मुझे समझ में आया की क्यों मेरी माँ ने मुझे किसी को यह बताने से मना किया था कि मेरा खतना नहीं हुआ है। मेरी माँ को डर था समुदाय के आदेश के खिलाफ जाने पर उनके या उनके परिवार के साथ बुरा हो सकता था, और इसीलिए, उनहोंने अपना प्रगतिशील फैसला सब से छुपा के रखा।

आज, एक व्यस्क महिला के रूप में मैं खतना के शारीरिक और भावनात्मक नुक्सान को समझ सकती हूँ, और मैं अपनी माँ के फैसले की सराहना करती हूँ। मैं सोच भी नहीं सकती हूँ जिन महिलाओं के साथ यह हुआ उनको अपनी रोजमर्रा की जिंदगी में क्या झेलना पड़ता होगा। मुझे लगातार डर लगता है कि यह प्रथा अभी भी जारी है (हालाँकि यह अधिकतर गुप्त है) और “परंपरा” के अलावा अधिकतर लोगों के पास कोई वाजिब मेडिकल कारण नहीं हैं इसे  जारी रखने के लिए। मुझे उम्मीद है कि जैसे-जैसे लोग इस प्रथा और इससे जुड़े नुक्सान के बारे में जानते जाएँगे, समुदाय के भीतरसे परंपरा के नाम पर छोटी बच्चियों के अंग की विकृति की इस नुक्सानदायक प्रथा को रोकने की कोशिशें बढ़ती जाएँगी।

मैंने अपनी मां से मेरा खतना नहीं करने की विनती की। उन्होंने मेरी बात सुनी

(This article was originally published in English on November 8, 2016. Read the English version here.)

नाम: अज्ञात

उम्र: 26

देश: संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिका

शनिवार की स्कूल की क्लास में मैंने पहली बार इसके बारे में सुना। एक पुरुष शिक्षक उस शनिवार की सुबह हमारी क्लास में पढ़ा रहे ते, और विषय था खतना। उस 14 वर्ष की उम्र में, मुझे वास्तव में पता नहीं था कि इसका मतलब क्या है, लेकिन मुझे पता था कि इसमें कुछ ऐसा शामिल था जो यौन-शिक्षा से संबंधित था। मैं शर्मिंदगी भरी स्थिति में कमरे के दाईं ओर लड़कियों के साथ बैठी थी, और लड़के कमरे के बाईं ओर बैठे थे। शिक्षक ने पुरूष खतना के बारे में बोलना शुरू किया; कहा कि उसमें त्वचा को सर्जरी के द्वारा हटा दिया जाता है, स्वच्छता के लिए। उसके बाद उन्होंने महिला खतना के बारे में बताया; कि यह एक लड़की की यौन इच्छा पर अंकुश लगाने के लिए किया जाता था। लड़कियों को पवित्र, शांत और आज्ञाकारी बनाना था। छोटी लड़कियों का खतना करना उन्हें असंयमित होने से बचाने का एकमात्र तरीका था। यह उनके परिवारों को शर्मिंदा होने से रोकने का एकमात्र तरीका था।

मुझे याद है कि वहां बैठकर मुझे पता नहीं था कि मेरे शिक्षक किस बारे में बात कर रहे हैं। मुझे यकीन था कि मैं कभी भी इस प्रक्रिया से नहीं गुज़री थी। मैं उस दिन उस कमरे में बैठी हुई बहुत असहज और अशांत महसूस कर रही थी।

मुझे याद है कि उसी शनिवार को हम सहेलियां क्लास की एक बड़ी लड़की के घर रहने गए थे, जहाँ पर उस दिन क्लास में जो सुना था उस विषय पर बात होने लगी। मैं चुपचाप बैठी रही जब एक दूसरी लड़की ने समझाया कि यह प्रक्रिया लड़कियों पर क्यों की जाती है, कैसे यह हमें बेहतर मुसलमान और बेहतर बोहरा बनती है, क्योंकि खतना यह सुनिश्चित करता है कि हम में यौन इच्छाओं और विवाह पूर्व संभोग की चाह नहीं जगेगी। खतना ने हमें पवित्र किया था, हमें शुद्ध किया था। मैंने गौर से सुना जब अन्य लड़कियों ने अपनी खतना की कहानियों बताई। मुझे धोखा महसूस हो रहा था क्योंकि मुझे पता था कि मैं कभी भी इस “ज़रूरी प्रथा” से नहीं गुजरी थी। उस वक़्त मुझे इस ‘ज़रूरी प्रथा’ का सही मतलब नहीं पता था। मेरी समझ में सिर्फ यह आ रहा था कि मै उन लड़कियों के जैसी नहीं थी, कि मैं एक “बुरी लड़की” थी, कि मैं गंदी थी, और मैं सिर्फ एक अच्छी मुस्लिम होने का नाटक कर रही थी।

मुझे याद है कि आखिरकार कुछ हफ्तों बाद मैंने अपनी माँ से इसके बारे में पूछने की हिम्मत जुटाई। उम्मीद भरी आवाज़ से मैंने उनको पूछा कि क्या मेरे साथ यह हुआ था, और बस मुझे याद नहीं था? उनका चेहरा बदल गया । उन्होंने अपना सिर हिलाया। जब हम भारत में थे तब उनको हमेशा मेरे मेरा खतना करवाना था, लेकिन कभी मौका नहीं मिला। मैंने उनको अपने दोस्तों से सुनी हुई कहानियाँ सुनाईं और उनसे पूछा, क्या वह मुझे इस प्रक्रिया को समझा सकती हैं, क्योंकि मुझे अपनी क्लास में इसे समझने में परेशानी हुई थी। उन्होंने मुझे खतना की प्रक्रिया समझाना शुरू किया; कैसे एक लड़की के भगशेफ या क्लाइटोरिस से त्वचा को हटाया जाता है, उसे पवित्र और शुद्ध बनाने के लिए। जैसे ही मैंने पूरी बात सुनी, मैं डरकर पीछे हट गई। उन्होंने मुझे कुछ मिनटों तक देखा, और फिर अधिकार के साथ कहा कि अगली बार जब हम भारत जाएंगे, तो वह मुझे मेरी चाची, जो एक डॉक्टर हैं, उनके पास ले जाएँगी जो मुझ पर खतना करवाएंगी। मैं उनके सामने अपने घुटनों के बल बैठ गई, उनसे भीख माँगते हुए कि मेरे साथ यह न करें, भीख माँगते हुए कि इस अकल्पनीय दर्दनाक प्रक्रिया से ना गुजरने दें। मैंने उनसे वादा किया कि मैं अच्छी रहूँगी, मैं स्वच्छ रहूँगी, मैं वह कुछ भी करूँगी जो वह चाहती थी अगर वह इस पूरी बात को भूल जाएँगी। उनहोंने सिर्फ इतना कहा कि “हम देखेंगे।”

मुझे याद है बड़े होते हुए, मैं खतना के बारे में और अधिक शोध करती रही यह जानने के लिए कि आख़िर यह होता क्या है। एक बार मेरे चचेरे भाई ने बड़े जोश से बताया कि यह कितना गलत है। तब मुझे एहसास हुआ कि मेरी माँ ने मुझे कितने बड़े नुकसान से बचाया है।  आज मैं खतना को बहुत अलग नज़र से देखती हूँ।

कई युवा लड़कियों से उनका चुनने का अधिकार छीन लिया गया है। किसी ने उनसे नहीं पूछा कि क्या वे खतना कराना चाहते हैं। उनके परिवारों ने उनके अस्तित्व के एक हिस्से को चुराने का फ़ैसला कर लिया, इस बारे में कोई परवाह किए बिना कि इसका उन पर क्या असर होगा, और अक्सर अपनी अनमोल छोटी बच्चियों को अस्वच्छ और अनुभवहीन हाथों में देने का निर्णय लिया।

मुझे याद है कि महीनों पहले एक बड़ी फेसबुक चर्चा खुलकर बाहर आई, जिसमें मेरे पहचान की एक बहुत ही मुखर लड़की ने खतना के खिलाफ आंदोलन करने वालों पर पर आरोप लगाया कि वे बोहरा समुदाय की “गंदगी” को पब्लिक में बाहर ला रहे थे। उस पल के पहले मैंने अपने समुदाय के किसी व्यक्ति पर इतनी शर्म महसूस नहीं की थी। यह प्रथा गलत है, और इसका गैर-रजामंदी वाला स्वरूप मेरे लिए इसे और भी दिल दहलाने वाला और निंदनीय बनाता है। जब आपका समुदाय कुछ ग़लत कर रहा है, और इसे पैगंबर (अल्लाह उनको शांति दे) द्वारा सिखाई गई एक धार्मिक प्रथा के रूप में बता रहा है, तब आप इससे छिपकर भाग नहीं सकते हैं। आपको बहस करने के लिए मुँह खोलना पड़ेगा और चर्चा करना होगा कि हम एक समुदाय के रूप में बेहतर कैसे बन सकते हैं। आपको चर्चा करना होगा कि हम अपने समुदाय की युवा लड़कियों और युवा महिलाओं की सुरक्षा कैसे कर सकते हैं।

एक वैश्विक समुदाय होने के नाते हम इसे रोकने के लिए बहुत कुछ कर सकते हैं। मेरी मां ने मुझे बचाया था। उन्होंने मेरे लिए अपने प्यार को सबसे पहले रखा, और आज उनकी वजह से मैं एक पूर्ण महिला हूँ। मैं उनकी सुरक्षा और मार्गदर्शन के लिए हमेशा आभारी हूं। सभी युवा महिलाएँ अपने शरीर पर समान सुरक्षा, समान प्रेम, समान सम्मान और समान अधिकार की हक़दार हैं। इतना तो कम से कम हम कर सकते हैं।

मेरी अनुमति के बिना मेरे सबसे गुप्त अंगों को काटा गया

(This article was originally published in English on November 5, 2016. Read the English version here.)

उम्र: 64

देश: संयुक्त राज्य अमेरिका

महिला जननांग विकृति या FGM के खिलाफ खड़े होने का समय आ गया है। यह लंबे समय से बाकी है। यह तब भी सही नहीं था जब मेरी माँ इससे गुज़री, यह तब भी सही नहीं था जब मैं इससे गुज़री और यह तब भी सही नहीं था जब मैंने अपनी बेटी के साथ यह होने दिया (मेरे माता-पिता के दबाव में)।

जिस दिन भारत में मेरे साथ एफजीएम किया गया था, मुझे उस दिन की याद है। मैं लगभग छह या सात साल की थी। मेरे भाई, जो मुझसे उम्र में बड़ा था, उसको एक दोस्त के घर पर खेलने के लिए दूर भेज दिया गया था। एक महिला, जिसे मैंने पहले कभी नहीं देखा था, वह आयी और मुझे मेरे माता-पिता के बेडरूम में ले जाया गया जहां एफजीएम किया गया था।

मुझे लगता है कि उस घटना और उस दिन की असहज स्मृति को मैंने दबा दिया है – बस उस महिला और मुझे नीचे लिटाए रखने वाली मेरी माँ की तस्वीर को छोड़कर। मुझे याद नहीं है कि खतना के पीछे का कौनसा कारण मुझे बताया गया था। लेकिन मुझे याद है कि मेरी अनुमति के बिना मेरे शरीर के सबसे गुप्त अंग के साथ जो किया गया था, उससे मैं बहुत नाराज़ थी। यह मेरे जिस्म पर अतिक्रमण था। सबसे अधिक, मुझे इस बात पर नाराजगी है कि जिस व्यक्ति पर मैंने उस छोटी उम्र में जीवन में सबसे अधिक भरोसा किया था, उनहोंने मेरे साथ ऐसा होने दिया। हो सकता है, इसीलिए, मेरा एक हिस्सा है जो मेरी माँ को माफ नहीं कर सकता है और मुझे आश्चर्य है कि मेरी बेटी ने मुझे उसी काम को करने के लिए माफ कर दिया है।

एफजीएम को सही दिखाने के लिए इसे धर्म के लिबास में ढका जा रहा है। पर जल्द ही साहियो जैसे संगठन इस क्रूर प्रथा को बंद कर देंगे। जब तक सैयदना एफजीएम की निंदा नहीं करते हैं, और अपनी बात अमल नहीं करते हैं, तब तक मुझे खुद को दाउदी बोहरा कहने में शर्म आएगी।

टैटू, महिला खतना और पाखंड

(This piece was originally published in English on November 25, 2016. Read the English version here.)

अज़रा एदनवाला

उम्र: 21

देश: अमेरिका / भारत

कुछ समय पहले मैं साहियो नाम के एक संगठन से मुख्तलिफ हुई। उस समय तक मैंने अपने खतने के बारे में कभी सोचा नहीं था। सच कहु तो मुझे पता ही नहीं था की इसका मतलब क्या है। जब मैंने उन महिलाओं के लेखों को पढ़ा, जिनका खतना हुआ था, तब मुझे एहसास हुआ की इस भयानक परंपरा का एक शिकार मैं भी थी। मैंने तो बस इस याद को अंतर्मन में दबा दिया था, क्यूंकि मैं नहीं जानती थी की ये परंपरा कहाँ से आयी और इसका मतलब क्या है।

मैं शायद 5 या 6 साल की थी। अपने परिवार के साथ छुट्टी पर थी। गुजरात में कोई इलाका था, जहाँ तक मुझे याद है। इसके अलावा और कुछ याद नहीं, सिवाय दर्द से भरे कुछ छितरे-बिटरे पलों की।

मुझे एक गंदे से बाथरूम में ले जाया जाना याद है, साथ में एक पुरूष या एक महिला थीं, सफ़ेद कपड़ों में। मुझे कैंची याद है, और मुझे खून देखना याद है। मुझे रोना याद है। क्योंकि मेरे जननांगों पर एक पट्टी लगाई गई थी। मुझे याद नहीं है कि किसी ने मुझे बताया हो, कि मेरे साथ अभी यह सब क्या हुआ था या क्यों हुआ था। सब कुछ हमेशा की तरह चलता रहा, मानो कुछ घटा ही न हो। और मैंने भी उसे मान लिया, क्यूंकि मुझे यह पता ही नहीं था की मेरे शरीर के साथ क्या किया गया है।

वैसे तो मेरे खतना ने न ही मेरे मन पे कोई गहरी छाप छोड़ी है, न ही मेरे जीवन जो किसी तरह बदला है।

हालांकि जो चीज़ मुझे खुरेदती है वह यह है की आखिर ये शरीर मेरा है, और किसी को भी इसे बदलने का कोई भी अधिकार न तो कभी था, न है। खासकर वैसे हानिकारक बदलाव जो “जैसे चलता है, वैसे चलने दो” की सोच के साथ आएं।

तीन साल पहले मैंने अपना पहला टैटू करवाया था। जब मेरे एक रिश्तेदार ने मेरे शरीर पर इस टैटू को देखा, तो उन्होंने कहा, “तुम मुस्लिम हो। और हमारा धर्म यह बताता है कि शरीर को ठीक उसी तरह अपनी कब्र में लौटना चाहिए, जैसा की वह माँ की कोक से निकला था। दूसरे शब्दों में कहा जाए, तो हमें अपने शरीर में कोई बदलाव नहीं करना चाहिए और इसे वैसे ही स्वीकार करना चाहिए जैसा की हमें अल्लाह ने दिया है। अगर ऐसा है, तो मेरे गुप्तांगों को क्यों काट दिया गया? यह कैसा पाखंड है?

कोई भी धर्म सिर्फ अपने सुविधानुसार अपने नियम नहीं बना सकता। हमें यह समझना होगा की धर्म आखिर हमीं ने बनाया है, और हमें उन रीती-रिवाज़ो का पालन करना छोड़ना होगा जो परंपरा के नाम पर चलती आ रही है।

हम एक आधुनिक समाज में रहते हैं, और जहां हम अभी हैं उस जगह पर हम इसलिए पहुँचे हैं क्योंकि हमने परिवर्तन को अपनाया। महिला जननांग खतना इस्लाम में एक महिला के आस्था को निर्धारित नहीं कर सकता है। मुझे यह प्रथा बड़ी छिछली लगती है, और मुझे नहीं लगता कि किसी को भी इस प्रथा का पालन करना चाहिए, विशेष रूप से छोटे बच्चों को, जिनको पता ही नहीं है कि उनके साथ क्या हो रहा है।

हो सकता है की खतना का मुझपर ज़्यादा गहरा असर नहीं पड़ा है, लेकिन ऐसी बहुत सी महिलाएं है जिन पर असर हुआ है। प्रत्येक महिला को अपने शरीर पर अधिकार होना चाहिए क्योंकि ऐसे भगवन में विश्वास रखने का कोई मतलब नहीं है जो जाहिर तौर पर ऐसी भयानक और अमानवीय प्रथा का समर्थन करते हैं।

Sahiyo Staff Spotlight: Lara Kingstone

Lara Kingstone started her career in community organizing in a UK-based program designed to integrate London communities and empower youth to become active and engaged citizens. Lara earned a BA in Political Communications at IDC Herzliya, an Israeli University, while working as a journalist at The Culture Trip and producing and hosting a human rights radio program. She then worked at an educational center which aimed to help Palestinian and Israeli young people learn English together, and get to know each other as peers and partners in peace. After graduating, she moved to the Thai-Lao border where she volunteered at Child Rights and Protection Center, a small non-profit which aims to prevent human trafficking and gender-based violence, while providing a safe and confidence-building living environment for at-risk young women. Lara then moved to Boston, and interned with Big Sister before starting her part-time role at Silver Lining Mentoring as an Outreach Coordinator, where she aims to find volunteers to become long-term mentors for youth in foster care.

She joined Sahiyo in August 2018.

When and how did you first get involved with Sahiyo?

In August 2018, I applied for the role of Communications Assistant, thrilled to see that an organization that so closely aligned with my interests was hiring. I have a background in non-profit work, and working to ensure dignity and human rights for women globally. I’d been interested in Female Genital Cutting, and the work to end the practice for years, doing a thesis paper on it in college, and had actually heard of Sahiyo a few years prior, whilst learning about global efforts to end FGC.

What is the nature of your work at Sahiyo?

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I’m now the Communications Coordinator. The work is constantly different, which I enjoy. It varies from working on grant applications and event reports, to supervising our lovely social media interns, to providing administrative assistance to the team. And anything else that pops up!

How has your involvement in this work impacted your life?

Joining Sahiyo has been incredible. I’ve been hit with a rush of motivation and energy, because I feel intensely passionate about the work and organization. I find myself truly inspired by our global team, and all the partners we connect with. I’m confident in the leadership as they have experience and knowledge of the community and practice we’re focusing on. I trust this team of brave, resilient and hard-working women, and I’m so honored to be able to support the work in any way I can. From day one it’s been intense and challenging, and I find myself constantly learning and growing with it. It’s very exciting being with such a fast-growing organization like Sahiyo, and getting to see the rapid changes and progress the team makes. I’m a big fan, and hope to be onboard for a long time.

Is there any advice you would like to share with others interested in joining or supporting Sahiyo’s work?

Do it! Sahiyo has so many different opportunities for being involved, even offering anonymous ‘Private Activism’ for those who are more comfortable in that capacity. If you have skills to bring to the table and feel passionately about Sahiyo’s goal, joining is definitely a worthwhile move, that will leave you feeling connected, empowered and proud to be part of this whirlwind movement.

Sahiyo Stories screened in Washington DC: A survivor’s reflection

by Maryah Haidery

Recently on Facebook, I noted that real social change usually happens when people are good enough to care about doing the right thing, thoughtful enough to figure out the best ways to do it, and brave enough to actually go through with it. On December 4th, in Washington DC, I was fortunate enough to meet a roomful of such people. I was there representing Sahiyo at an event called ‘Using Data and Community Engagement to Better Focus FGM Prevention Interventions’ sponsored by the US End FGM/C Network and The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

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Maryah Haidery talking at the Washington DC screening.

The event included an exceptional presentation by Sean Callaghan from the organization, 28 Too Many on how government agencies and NGOs can use data to track populations where FGM/C may be most prevalent and how best to engage with these populations. It also included a screening of Sahiyo Stories, a series of digital stories by nine different women, including myself, detailing our personal experiences with FGM/C and/or advocacy. I had volunteered to introduce Sahiyo Stories in place of Mariya Taher who was unable to attend the event. Despite some technical difficulties, I tried to summarize Mariya’s history with StoryCenter and the collaboration which culminated in Sahiyo Stories and the short behind-the-scenes video showing how we made the videos and what we hoped to gain from them.

Since this would be my first time seeing the videos with a large audience, I was a little nervous. But when Mariya’s voice came on, the room grew absolutely silent and by the end, quite a few people seemed visibly moved. During the Q&A period following the screening, I was struck by the number of people who wanted to know how they could find out more about FGM/C and what they could do to help even though this was not a problem that affected their communities. Afterward, several people from other organizations working to end FGM/C approached me with interesting suggestions on using Sahiyo Stories in conjunction with their apps and projects in order to make a greater impact on government officials or healthcare workers or educators. As I looked around the room at all these people who cared so passionately about ending this practice – people who were good and thoughtful and brave, it made me more confident than ever before that real social change was a real possibility.

To learn more about Sahiyo Stories, read:

Five things you need to know about the controversial court ruling on FGM/C in USA: Sahiyo explains

by Sahiyo

On November 20, 2018, United States District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that the US Federal Law banning Female Genital Cutting (FGC, also known as Female Genital Mutilation or FGM) is unconstitutional. With this ruling, the judge dismissed key charges of FGM against two Michigan doctors and six other people accused of practicing genital cutting on several minor girls.

However, in the same ruling, Judge Friedman acknowledged that the practice of cutting a female’s genitalia is “despicable”.

The ruling came as a shock to survivors of FGC and human rights activists advocating to end FGC, not just in the USA but all over the world. But there is more to this complex and controversial court ruling than the news headlines suggest. In order to better understand the ruling and its implications for communities that practice FGC, read Sahiyo’s comprehensive explainer below:

What is the US District Judge’s ruling on Female Genital Cutting all about?

In April 2017, the US federal government prosecuted Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, Dr. Fakhruddin Attar and his wife Farida Attar — all members of Michigan’s Farmington Hills Dawoodi Bohra mosque — for subjecting two minor girls from Minnesota to FGC. Subsequently, five other women from the Dawoodi Bohra community were prosecuted for performing FGC on at least nine girls in the Michigan area. This historic case was the first time that anyone had been charged under the US federal law prohibiting FGC — a law that had been introduced by the federal government back in 1996.

To understand the US District Court’s ruling in this case on November 20, it is important to understand the federal nature of the US government and its criminal justice system. Under federalism, some laws can be passed by Congress — the federal or central government — and are applicable to all states in the country. Some other laws can only come under the jurisdiction of individual state governments, and cannot apply to the whole country.

In his ruling in the FGC case, Judge Friedman of the federal-level district court stated that “as despicable as this practice may be”, FGC is technically a “local criminal activity”, and Congress (the federal government) does not have jurisdictional authority to regulate it. Even though the federal law against FGC has been in place since 1996, he stated that it is “unconstitutional.”       

Why is this ruling controversial?

The district judge states that the crime of FGC should be regulated by individual states. But the US does not actually have laws against FGC in every single state. At the moment, only 27 out of 50 US states have a state law banning FGC. There is currently a state law in Michigan banning FGC, but the law only came into effect in 2017 after the federal case involving Dr Nagarwala and Dr Attar came to light. The doctors cannot be prosecuted retrospectively under this state law.

Judge Friedman’s ruling declares the federal law against FGC to be unconstitutional based on a technicality. However, the ruling is controversial on at least two fronts.

First, prosecutors and other human rights advocates argue that FGC cannot be considered just a local criminal activity, because it often involves transporting minors across state borders to get their genitals cut by doctors who are paid to perform the ritual. In this case, for instance, two minor girls were transported from Minnesota to Michigan to get FGC done by Dr Nagarwala. Therefore, the federal law banning FGC — which Congress had passed in 1996 under the “Commerce Clause” — should be applicable in this case. Judge Friedman’s ruling does not consider this aspect.

Second, this ruling is insensitive to survivors of FGC and sends out a dangerous message to women from FGC-practicing communities: that their lives and bodies can be put at risk on the grounds of questionable technicalities.

Does this ruling put more girls at risk of being cut?

For the time being, yes: this ruling can put girls at risk of being but. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that 513,000 women and girls have experienced or are at risk of FGC in the United States. And this figure is an underestimation. Many women and girls at risk live in one of the 23 States which have not passed laws against FGC.

Since the ruling puts the onus of regulating FGC only to individual states, many of these girls are at risk of being transported from states that have laws banning FGC to states that currently do not have laws banning FGC, so that they can be cut with impunity. Only 11 of the 27 States with anti-FGC laws have specific provisions banning the transportation of a child out of the State to perform FGC.

Since the US is a strong country with a high degree of influence on global cultures, this ruling also ends up unintentionally condoning genital cutting for FGC-practicing communities all over the world. We are already seeing this in the global Dawoodi Bohra community, where supporters of Female Genital Cutting have taken to social media to celebrate their “victory” in the US FGC case, and to claim that they will continue cutting girls.

Is this the end of the case, or can the ruling be appealed?

This District Court ruling is not the end of the case. This is a lower court decision which can and almost certainly will be appealed by prosecutors from the US Government, and it is possible that over time, this case will be taken to the Supreme Court.

Additionally, two charges remain against Dr Nagarwala, including conspiracy to travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, and obstruction of justice. Her trial is set to begin in April 2019.

What is the way forward now, for those of us working to end FGC?

Laws are an important deterrent against FGC, and help to reinforce the fact that cutting female genitals is a human rights violation. In light of Judge Friedman’s ruling, activists and communities in the United States should now urge their elected representatives to pass laws banning FGC in every single state of the country. As a global leader in human rights, the US should also do this to set a precedent in many Asian countries where there are currently no laws against FGC.

However, at Sahiyo, we believe that laws can be effective only when accompanied by social change movements on the ground. We therefore encourage everyone to engage in dialogue around FGC, to break the silence around this taboo topic, listen to women’s voices and recognise that FGC is harmful to girls and women.

 

To learn about the history of the Michigan case, click here

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.

The Legal Side of Khatna or Female Genital Cutting

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By Priya Ahluwalia

Priya is a 22-year-old clinical psychology student at Tata Institute of Social Sciences – Mumbai. She is passionate about mental health, photography and writing. She is currently conducting research on the individual experience of khatna and its effects. Read her other articles in this series: Khatna Research in Mumbai.

Female Genital Cutting or khatna or khafz, as it is also called in the Bohra community, involves cutting or removal of the external female genitalia. Khatna has no known health benefits, but does have well-documented complications, which range from severe pain, excessive bleeding, and scar tissue to frequent infections.

The movement against khatna in India perhaps began in the early 1990s with Rehana Ghaidally’s paper, “All for Izzat”, which attempted to identify the key reasons for why khatna was performed in India. However, the movement only gained momentum in 2011, when the first online petition was filed against it anonymously. The online campaign triggered a barrage of women coming forward with their own stories of trauma caused by khatna. It further fueled both online petitions as well as an onground movement.

Within the Indian context of the Dawoodi Bohra community, the majority of the cases of khatna constitute Type 1, also referred to as clitoridectomy, which involves either partial or full removal of the clitoris, or the fold of skin known as the prepuce, covering it. Interestingly, there are many men and women who support khatna. From a psychological viewpoint, it may be rooted in the cognitive dissonance theory. Men and women of the Dawoodi Bohra community have been indoctrinated to believe that khatna is an essential religious obligation, and the will of God is not to be questioned. The online campaigns provide women in the Bohra community an alternative narrative, which may be in direct conflict with their existing beliefs. This conflict has created a lot of anxiety and conversations which have led to the movement gathering momentum, eventually catching the attention of the Indian government.

The uphill legal battle saw the government oscillating between supporting and opposing the movement. In May of 2017, the Ministry of Women and Child Development declared full support for survivors, deeming the practice a criminal offence with prosecution possible under the guidelines of POCSO (2012). The ministry requested the community to voluntarily take action to stop it. If it failed, the government would seek to implement a law to end it. In December of 2017, the ministry withdrew from its position, citing lack of empirical evidence despite proof from Sahiyo’s landmark study, which revealed that 80% of Bohri women globally have undergone khatna. Although the rejection from the government was disheartening, the momentum of the movement has not faltered. Organizations such as Sahiyo and WeSpeakOut continue to provide crucial support for survivors to rally in solidarity.

Several countries in Africa, as well as the United States and Australia, have made consistent and successful attempts to end female genital cutting. To understand how this has been possible, we must examine how the socio-economic structure of these countries has played an integral role in their success. Several of these countries may have high literacy rates, greater awareness of their rights and a more conducive environment for survivors to speak out.

The Bohra community aspect is crucial to understanding the Indian government’s hesitancy to pass a law. Although India is a signatory to several of the United Nations and World Health Organization conventions which view khatna as a human rights violation, it comes under the purview of existing Indian legislation, such as article 319 and 320 of the IPC and POCSO. No separate law has been passed against FGC until now. Things looked hopeful when the PIL filed against FGM/C was to be heard by the five-judge bench in the India Supreme Court. The decision initially seemed to swing in favor of banning the practice, as the judges referred to it as a violation of the rights of the girl child. The judges questioned how the violation of the “bodily integrity” of the child could be an essential practice of a religion, asserting that right to religious freedom does not negate other fundamental rights of the individual. Despite overwhelming support, the judges later backtracked, deferring to a constitutional bench to decide on the matters of religious rights and freedom. It was the most crushing setback for the movement.

Initially, I wondered what the hesitancy was in declaring khatna as a human rights violation. Later, I realized that the hesitancy was due to the political context and not the practice itself. Family and religion are the founding threads of our Indian community, and khatna is so intricately woven within these threads. Family and religion are our sources of identity, and since India is a collectivist society our ideas, beliefs in practices such as khatna are rooted in a collective experience, rather than an individual’s. Thus, attempting to end khatna risks unraveling the whole moral power structure of the country. Initially, it will begin with the Bohra community, but it may create a ripple effect across the country within other communities and religions. The moral thread of India is religion, and religion dictates our gender roles. If khatna is being questioned, we are unraveling this power structure by questioning the clergy’s teachings, and instead seeking the truth for ourselves by reading the religious scriptures whose access has unduly only been given to men for so long. Perhaps, with this newfound knowledge, our perception of the world will shift, leading to a destabilization of the existing structure and establishment of a new order with women in power. Change is just around the corner.

Although the law is the first concrete step toward ending khatna, it is also a double-edged sword with unintended consequences. The law has the potential to push the practice further underground. The more discreetly cutting is done, the more difficult it would become to track it. Furthermore, the law would bring into question the perpetrators of the crime. Is it parents, midwives, community as a whole, or religious leaders? What would be the quantum of punishment? Would the 7-year-old child be responsible for registering the complaint? Who would protect the child from further psychological harm?

Despite it all, I too believe law is essential in our work toward abandonment of khatna, since it may create awareness and generate conversation. But a law in itself will not stop khatna. Khatna will only end when we realize we are hurting our daughters. Once we realize that no religion, no God and no love is founded on pain, that is when the struggle against khatna will finally end.