On October 28, 2021, Sahiyo will be hosting a webinar, ‘Exploring the Connection Between Religion and Female Genital Cutting’ (FGC).
This harmful practice is often attributed to certain religions or cultures. Some might say these acts are justified because they are tradition or holy, not to be argued by those outside of the community. But does religion alone truly perpetuate the practice of FGC? How do survivors of FGC view the topics of religion and spirituality? And how do these things affect them in their day-to-day lives as women?
This virtual event will answer these questions and examine the FGC through a religious lens, including why it occurs and how it affects millions of women around the world. We will hear 3 expert speakers raise their voices while sharing insightful professional and personal experiences.The webinar will be moderated by Sahiyo U.S. Executive Director Mariya Taher and includes a panel discussion featuring Sameera Qureshi, Rahmah Abdulaleem, and more speakers to come.
Register today and join us as we listen, learn, and advocate for change for the future.
In addition, this webinar is part of a larger public awareness campaign that explores both connections and disconnections between religion and FGC, which Sahiyo will be initiating on October 28, in honor of the International Day of the Girl Child. When advocates speak about religion and its relationship with FGC, the conversation is usually focused on attempting to disprove the relationship and connection, rather than to uplift and highlight the idea that no religion should be permitted to promote harm to a child. This campaign will explore the major themes connecting religion and FGC, emphasizing how religion should never be used to cause harm, regardless of leadership or textual sayings. Our hope in creating this campaign is that we will educate the broader public on the right for women to choose and give consent, as well as the importance of agency over their own bodies.
Sameera Qureshi, MS OTR, is an Occupational Therapist and Sexual Health Educator. For the last twelve years, Sameera has worked at the intersections of mental and sexual health education within Muslim communities, both in Canada and the United States. After twelve years in non-profit spaces, she founded her own business, Sexual Health for Muslims, in the Fall of 2020. The goal of her work is to create online, comprehensive sexual health education for Muslims, grounded in the tradition of Islamic spirituality and psychology. Sameera’s approach not only addresses the body and mind, but more so the soul, which is what Muslims are tasked with gaining self-awareness of. Apart from offering comprehensive, online sexual health courses for Muslims, she also provides one-on-one consultations, premarital education sessions, and regularly collaborates with Muslim organizations and other professionals in the field. Sameera also facilitates professional development opportunities for sexual and mental health providers who intersect and work with Muslim clients and communities. You can find her work on Instagram @sexualhealthformuslims, and on her website www.sexualhealthformuslims.com.
Rahmah A. Abdulaleemis the Executive Director of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights. which aims to create a global network of advocates who are both knowledgeable about the gender-equitable principles of Islam, and are able to advance the cause of Muslim women’s rights in legal and social environments. Ms. Abdulaleem works with scholars to empower advocates about the rights Islamic law grants to women; she also educates Muslim women in Islamic jurisprudence, leadership, and conflict resolution so they may become the leading agents of change within their communities. Ms. Abdulaleem has coordinated and presented at educational and civil rights programs around the world. Ms. Abdulaleem obtained her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and worked at a top international corporate law firm for 14 years. You can learn more about her work on her website https://karamah.org.
I have published several papers on the ethics of medically unnecessary genital cutting practices affecting children of all sexes and genders. When my writing touches on the sub-set of these practices that affect persons with characteristically female sex-typed genitals, I have received some pushback for using the term female genital cutting (FGC) rather than female genital mutilation (FGM).
An instance of such pushback came from a respected colleague in response to a paper of mine in Archives of Sexual Behavior, in which I argue against the use of ‘mutilation’ in certain contexts, as there is evidence that such stigmatizing language may have adverse effects on the very people who are meant to be helped. Given that this terminological issue is likely to keep coming up, I thought I would share parts of the reply I wrote to my colleague. I hope it can shed some light on at least one plausible way of thinking about such matters.
My colleague argued that my use of ‘FGC’ rather than ‘FGM’ is disrespectful because it goes against the recommendation of the 2005 Bamako Declaration adopted by the Inter-African Committee (IAC) on Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children.
On the matter of disrespect. I have had many conversations with women who consider themselves circumcised, rather than mutilated, and even if they agree that medically unnecessary genital cutting should not be performed on persons who are incapable of consenting, primarily children, they insist that it is harmful, stigmatizing, and paternalistic for others to simply define their own modified genitals as mutilated (a term that implies disfigurement or even an intent to cause harm).
They explain that their loving parents, however misguided, did not intend to cause them net harm, just as, for example, Jewish parents who authorize that their sons be circumcised do not intend to harm them, but rather, take an action that is sincerely believed to appropriately integrate the child into an ancestral community. They recognize that, in their own communities, both male and female genital cutting practices are widely seen as improving the genitalia, including aesthetically, which is contrary to the very notion of mutilation. I may not agree with that interpretation myself, but it is not my position to tell these women (or their brothers) that their altered genitals are ugly or disfigured rather than, as they see it, aesthetically (or in some cases, culturally or religiously) improved.
I will ask: Were these leaders democratically elected to express the considered opinions of their constituents, or were these leaders self-appointed? At the very least, they cannot have been authorized to speak on behalf of countless Southeast Asian or Middle Eastern women who have been affected by ritual forms of female genital cutting.
In any event, I face a choice. I can disagree with the conclusion of these African leaders who seem to feel qualified to speak on behalf of millions of other women, including non-African women, and impose an entirely negative and stigmatizing interpretation of all of their altered genitalia regardless of how those women see their own bodies. Or I can show respect to those women who have shared their stories with me, as well as all the women in various reports and testimonies who have expressed strong objections to the term ‘mutilation’ being forced on them, and who would simply like to have the room to be able to evaluate and describe their own genitals as they see fit.
One woman explained her feelings: “In my opinion, the word ‘mutilation’ used in reference to [what happened to me] is a degrading and disempowering term that strips women of their dignity and self-worth. Basically, it is a label that has the power to negatively influence one’s self-identity. If you understand labelling theory you will understand how damaging/influential a term or classification can be to an individual.”
She continued with her experience: “Having just about survived my ordeal of forced body alteration I was very aware of the violation to my body. However, the introduction of the term ‘mutilation’ into my consciousness affected me mentally and physically. It made me view myself as an ugly, mutilated, and frowned-upon member of society. There started my journey of self-hate, which presented itself in many forms, including bulimia and social anxiety, to name but a few. To be called the ‘mutilated’ girl by health professionals stripped me of any dignity and covered me in shame on numerous occasions. Thankfully, I no longer see myself as a victim or survivor of ‘FGM’ – I refuse to allow that term to take away my power or to define who I am.”
Faced with the choice between respectfully disagreeing with the analysis and conclusion of a group of leaders whose qualification to speak on behalf of others I do not know, versus showing respect to those women, such as the one quoted above, who have asked for the right to determine their own victim status (including whether they regard their genitals as mutilated or otherwise), I choose the latter.
Referring to “the event” and “the torture” is using singular language to refer to a plurality of quite different events carried out in different ways by different groups for different reasons. As you know, the World Health Organization (WHO) uses the term FGM to refer to a dozen or more practices, ranging from nicking of the clitoral hood, which does not remove tissue. In many communities, for example in Malaysia, it’s often done by a doctor with sterile equipment and pain control, through to excision of the external clitoris with a rusty implement and no pain control followed by infibulation, as occurs in some rural parts of Northeast Africa, for example.
It is entirely accurate to say that all of those quite different interventions are medically unnecessary acts of genital cutting; and I argue that all of them are morally impermissible if carried out on a non-consenting person. I have written about labiaplasty, a common procedure in Western countries. I tend to think it is morally permissible for an adult, fully-informed woman to decide that she wants what she regards as a cosmetic alteration to her genitals. I would not presume to tell my friends who have undergone what they see as cosmetic labiaplasty that they are victims of genital mutilation. Rather, I would accept their interpretation of their own bodies as having been enhanced.
What this suggests to me is that the sheer alteration of healthy genital tissue is not inherently mutilating. Rather, a person could interpret altered genitalia in a wide range of ways, including as improved or enhanced. This is the majority way that persons with altered genitalia regard their own bodies, as far as I can tell from reading the primary and secondary literature on this topic. What makes medically unnecessary genital cutting morally wrong is its being done non-consensually. It does not matter if it is mutilating or not – that is up to the person who is affected to decide. What matters is that it should be that person’s own choice.
Finally, my work is dedicated to the human rights argument that all non-consenting individuals, whether female, male, or intersex, have a fundamental moral claim against any interference with their genitals that is not medically necessary. That means that I believe that medically unnecessary intersex genital cutting is wrong, as is such cutting of the penis, when either is done without the informed consent of the affected person. And so, since I write about all medically unnecessary genital cutting practices, which includes alterations of the vulva that are less severe than penile circumcision as it is commonly performed in my country, I cannot go around calling one set of procedures ‘mutilations’ based on the sex of the person to whom they happen, while using a different term for another set of procedures. So, I choose to use the entirely accurate, non-stigmatizing language of ‘medically unnecessary genital cutting’ in all cases, leaving 100% of the leeway to each individual to determine for themselves.
It is not my place to speak on behalf of others about their bodies. Nor do I think it is the place of these African leaders to speak on behalf of millions of women who may not agree with them. Moreover, as I argue at length in the paper I sent around, there is very good reason to think that the language of mutilation is stigmatizing and harmful. Since it is not necessary to stigmatize women’s bodies in order to ground the ethical claim that cutting children’s genitals is morally wrong, if not medically necessary, I choose to use non-stigmatizing language.
Brian Earp is an American bioethicist, philosopher, and interdisciplinary researcher. He is currently Associate Director of the Yale-Hastings Program in Ethics and Health Policy at Yale University and The Hastings Center, and a Research Fellow at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics.
Despite the fact that the mother of Egyptian Feminist Movement Nawal El Saadawi died at aged 89 earlier this year, her fight against patriarchy lives on. Born in 1931, she was an Egyptian writer, psychiatrist, physician and a powerful feminist activist who fought against female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) for many years. In her autobiography, she wrote as a survivor of FGM/C, “Since I was a child that deep wound left in my body has never healed.”
She began her activism in her college days against the cultural institution of the state that promoted FGM/C. In her opinion, when religious institutions gain power, oppression against women of the region increases ,and she believed that women are oppressed under all religious institutions. She wrote 47 books on issues that women face in Egypt. Even as she spent three months in prison, she wrote Memoirs from the Women’s Prison with an eyebrow pencil on toilet paper. She is popularly known as the Simone de Beauvoir of the Arab World.
El Saadawi was the founder and president of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association and co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights. She has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium; Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She won the North-South Prize from the council of Europe in 2004, Stig Dagerman Prize in 2011, and has been featured in BBC’s 100 women of 2015 to name a few.
In 1972 she wrote the book Women and Sex in which she criticized FGM/C. Her book became a foundational text of second-wave feminism. The book was banned in Egypt and consequently she lost her job as the director general of public health for the Egyptian Ministry of Health. In 1980 she yet again wrote about her experience of undergoing a cliterodectomy in her book The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World. She was the founder of the Health Education Association and the Egyptian Women Writers’ Association and was the Chief Editor of Health Magazine in Cairo, and Editor of Medical Association Magazine.
As she graduated as a medical doctor from Cairo University in 1955 she observed that women’s physical and psychological problems are actually deeply rooted in the religious and cultural institutions they belong to. She connected oppressive cultural practices and norms of the society to the systemic oppression under the structures of class, patriarchy and imperialism. While working as a doctor in Egypt she became aware of the issue of domestic violence and inequalities that women face in their day to day life. After trying to protect one of her patients from domestic violence, she went back to Cairo and eventually became the director of the Ministry of Public Health. As a feminist and a doctor she was against male circumcision. In her view she did not separate cutting children from a physical or social point of view. In an interview to The Independent she said, “I am going to carry on this forever.” Her legacy will live on for future generations to consider.
In June Sahiyo partnered with Hidden Scars to host a training for practitioners and advocates working with survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) and female genital cutting (FGC).
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a reality for many women and girls. The World Health Organization reports that one in three women will experience sexual or physical violence in her lifetime. Yet, GBV often remains hidden and shrouded in silence and shame. At the core of providing better prevention, protection, health, and social support services for women and girls are stronger data, enhanced research, and community engagement. Our presentation explored how practitioners can provide trauma-informed care to survivors of GBV, using FGC as a case study. We also provided resources for clinicians and other front-line professionals who may come in contact with women impacted by both, and who are looking to better understand how to provide better care.
While Sahiyo’s expertise is in addressing FGC, we acknowledge that FGC is a form of gender-based violence and child abuse. Our team felt that many of the lessons that can be learned about how to help survivors of FGC could also be applied to all forms of GBV. Like other forms of gender-based violence, such as domestic violence, FGC is a learned behavior of childhood, and is often surrounded by a culture of silence and shame, and is a form of generational violence. However, GBV can also include childhood marriage, rape, sexual assault, honor crimes, domestic violence, and other crimes against women. While we used FGC as a case study, our goal was to create a training that would allow practitioners to provide better care to all survivors of gender-based violence.
During this event, we provided an overview of FGM/C and GBV, as well as shared videos from our Voices to End FGM/C project. These videos helped our audience better understand the complicated emotions and experiences survivors go through, and to begin to think about how they as providers can better support them in their journey toward healing. We also shared tools such as the George Washington University FGM/C Toolkit, Mumkin, and other resources that are available to help them and their organizations think about how to provide better care to surviors.
Finally, in order to facilitate conversations and help our guests practice communicating with survivors, we also hosted mock conversations. These conversations were held with the goal to help practitioners become more comfortable speaking with survivors and to practice having productive conversations with patients.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which is investigating this case, the 39-year-old woman allegedly transported the child sometime between July 10 to October 14, 2016.
This is the first time that the US Department of Justice has indicted anyone under this specific clause of the US anti-FGM/C law, i.e, transporting a minor girl outside of US borders to facilitate the practice of genital cutting. While FGM/C has been illegal in the United States since 1996, this clause was introduced in 2013.
The FBI is investigating the case with the support of the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, a government agency that works to identify, locate and prosecute human rights abusers in the US.
While further details about this case are awaited, it is important to note that the Houston woman has not been charged under the new federal anti-FGM/C law that was signed by the US President on January 5. Since the alleged crime took place in 2016, she has been charged under section 116(d) of the older federal law against FGM/C.
The older federal law has been the subject of controversy since April 2017, when two Michigan doctors and six other members of the Dawoodi Bohra community became the first people to be prosecuted for performing/facilitating FGM/C on at least nine minor girls in the Michigan area. In November 2018, even though a US District Court judge acknowledged that FGM/C was a “despicable” practice, he ruled that the federal law prohibiting it was unconstitutional.
This ruling was based on a technicality: the judge stated that FGM/C is considered a “local criminal activity” to be looked into at the state level rather than the federal or national level. The ruling triggered a controversy because it placed girls in the US at the risk of being cut. Only 39 out of 50 US states currently have laws prohibiting FGM/C, allowing room for girls to be transported across state borders to be subjected to the practice.
The new “Stop FGM Act of 2020”, signed by the government this month, closes this loophole and allows federal authorities to prosecute people suspected of carrying out FGC anywhere in the country.
We at Sahiyo have been advocating for a complete end to the harmful practice of Female Genital Cutting, also known as Khatna or Khafz in the Dawoodi Bohra community, since 2015. FGC is a violation of the rights and bodily integrity of women and girls, and can have long-term physical, psychological and sexual consequences for them.
In light of this indictment of the Houston woman, we strongly urge members of all FGC-practicing communities to completely abandon this age-old ritual, not just because it is illegal in the US and several other countries, but because it is harmful, patriarchal, medically unnecessary, and detrimental to the well-being of girls and women.
At the same time, we also urge all global media publications to report on this case — and on the subject of FGC — with sensitivity and nuance. We request the media to refrain from vilifying specific communities, or using terms such as “barbaric” or “mutilation” that might trigger a survivor’s trauma. To learn more, check out Sahiyo’s Guide: A Resource Guide To Best Practice For Sensitive and Effective Reporting on FGM/C.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or to contact Sahiyo U.S., email email@example.com.
(This post was originally published in English on March 22, 2017. You can read the English version here.)
लेखक: सबाहत जहाँ
उम्र: 24 देश: भारत
मैं एक कैफे में बैठकर सोच रही हूँ, क्या मैं अपनी बेटी के साथ जननांग विकृति जैसी दर्दभरी प्रथा को निभाना चाहूँगी या नहीं, जैसा मेरी माँ ने मेरे साथ मज़हब के नाम पर किया था।
मैं 24 साल की हूँ, पत्रकारिता की पढ़ाई कर रही हूँ, एक ऐसे समुदाय की मुस्लिम लड़की हूँ जो आज भी अंधे होकर महिला जननांग विकृति (Female Genital Mutilation – FGM) की प्रथा को ढो रहे हैं। पूरी जिंदगी मेरा भरोसा था कि FGM मेरे स्वास्थ्य के लिए अच्छा है, और कि जो भी पेशाब संबंधी दिक्कतें मुझे हो रही हैं उन सबका इससे कोई संबंध नहीं है। मुझे अहसास ही नहीं था कि मेरी सबसे बड़ी समस्या यह थी कि मेरा क्लिटोरिस सात साल की उम्र में काट दिया गया था।
मुझे तो यह भी याद नहीं है कि यह कैसे हुआ था, या इसमें मुझे दर्द हुआ था या नहीं। और मुझे कभी सोचने का मौका नहीं मिला क्योंकि जब मेरी माँ ने कहा कि यह मेरे स्वास्थ्य के लिए अच्छा है तो मुझे उन पर भरोसा था। मैं उनको दोष नहीं देती हूँ लेकिन मैं प्रथा को दोषी मानती हूँ। बहुत से मुस्लिम फिरके इसे नहीं मानते हैं लेकिन मेरा समुदाय मानता है।
पहली बार एफजीएम के बारे में मुझे तब पता चला जब मैंने लेखक अयान हिरसी अली की किताब पढ़ी। उसके बाद मैंने हिंदुस्तान टाइम्स में सहियो के बारे में पढ़ा था। मैं गहरे सदमे में थी और मैंने मेरी माँ को कॉल किया। शांत दिमाग से मैंने उनसे पूछा, “माँ, आपने मेरे साथ ऐसा क्यों किया?” उन्होंने कहा, “बेटा क्योंकि यह यौन उत्तेजनाओं को नियंत्रित करेगा, तुम संभोग के लिए आतुर नहीं रहोगी और तुम्हारा कुँआरापन बना रहेगा।” मैंने सोचा, यह सब कुँआरेपन के लिए है! क्या इसीलिए मुझे समय-समय पर पेशाब संबंधी दिक्कतों से जूझना पड़ता है?
किसी के साथ सोना है या नहीं यह मेरा मामला है, मेरी इच्छा है। यह मेरा दिमाग है जो इसका फैसला लेगा, मेरा क्लिटोरिस नहीं! मेरे पास अपनी माँ से कहने के लिए कुछ नहीं था, मैंने बस कहा “ठीक है” और कॉल को काट दिया। मुझे उनके ऊपर गुस्सा नहीं है, उन्होंने तो वह किया जो उनकी संस्कृति और मज़हब ने सिखाया था। हाँ, शारिरीक सम्बन्ध के दौरान मुझे दिक्कतें होती हैं। यह दर्दभरा है और यह समस्या भरा है। इस प्रथा से मेरी यौन उत्तेजना नहीं रूकी बल्कि इसने मेरे लिए शारीरिक संबंध को मुश्किल बना दिया।
मैं एक पढ़ी-लिखी महिला हूँ और मैं FGM के खिलाफ खड़ी हो रही हूँ। लोगों को अहसास कराने के लिए कि यह गलत है, मैं हर मुमकिन कोशिश करूँगी। साथ खड़े होने और इस बारे में बात करने के लिए मैं सहियो को धन्यवाद देती हूँ। मुझे खुशी है कि इस बारे में बात करने को लेकर जो शर्म का माहौल था वो खत्म हो गया है और मैं एक FGM पीड़ित के रूप में अपना दुख साझा कर सकती हूँ।
(इस पोस्ट का लेख मूल रूप से 23 फरवरी, 2017 को इस ब्लॉग पर छपा था: Wanderlustbeau)
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.”
(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.
(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.)
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।
(This article was originally published in English on November 8, 2016. Read the English version here.)
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।