Sahiyo and Khatna survivors get attacked online through ‘organized trolling’

In the recent years Sahiyo has come across many dissenting views while engaging with followers on the internet on the topic of ending Female Genital Cutting. The dissenting views have come in the form of tweets, comments, emails, people personally dissuading us from our work, and more. And every time someone has tried to tell us that Female Genital Cutting is beneficial for the woman, we have tried to present a reasoned argument against it.

It is our mission to create a counter-narrative on Female Genital Cutting in the communities practicing it, through dialogue and education.

That said, we recently observed a phenomenon of ‘organized trolling’, a spate of attacks online. A few days ago, Sahiyo’s Facebook page was attacked with negative reviews from different people. It happened in a quick span of a few minutes and oddly enough every review had almost the same things to say.

The trolls gave Sahiyo one-star ratings and called us a ‘sham organization’. In some reviews, co-founders were named individually and discredited for bringing shame to the community. Furthermore, these reviews stated that Sahiyo co-founders are creating a fake narrative against Female Genital Cutting prevalent in the community for their personal gains. This kind of behaviour qualifies as online harassment, because it is an intentional attempt to attack and discredit a group and its individual members in manner that is not civil.

In 2015, Sahiyo conducted an anonymous survey with 385 respondents out of which 81% people responded that they didn’t want the practice to continue. Since its inception, the number of people supporting Sahiyo’s mission has increased manifold, as men and women from the community have come out against the practice.

Yet there is a significant number of people who fear openly coming out with their views against the practice. Online harassment through organised trolling is one among the many reason why people fear voicing their opinions publicly.

Through Sahiyo, we want to create a safe space where opinions on the practice could be heard and tolerated, not trolled and shunned. By attacking online and publicly shaming, the pro-khatna supporters have displayed their intolerance against any view that counters or challenges the practice.

FGC is illegal in many parts of the world including United States and Australia, where people from the Bohra community have faced legal action for practising Female Genital Cutting. Furthermore, the jamaats (congregations) in US, UK and Australia came up with notices asking members not to practice FGC because it is against the law of land.

Yet pro-khatna supporters continue to defend the practice, and in doing so, some of them resort to  trolling or online harassment through foul language and personal attacks of those why they disagree with. While claiming that they have personally not had negative experiences with FGC, they attack, discredit and dismiss the personal experiences of others who have had negative experiences with FGC and have taken the courage to share their stories.

While we disagree with pro-khatna rhetoric which has been passed down since generations within the community, we — and the FGC survivors who share their stories with us — want to create room to have a dialogue and debate around it without being personally attacked.

Many women who have undergone FGC already have a challenging time talking about their experience openly. There is a fear and shame associated with sharing their stories — shame that it happened to them and perhaps feelings of not wanting to be viewed as victims. There is also a very real fear of backlash and of not being believed, and online trolling validates these fears. Trolling makes it more difficult and dangerous for people to come forward, and for community members to feel supported because of something they feel.

Furthermore, it is only a clear exhibition of intolerance prevalent in the community, which quells voices of the people who don’t agree with their mandate.

Sahiyo strongly condemns online trolling of those who have voiced their views against the practice. Online harassment or trolling leaves no room for debate or dialogue.


A conversation with change makers: women who chose to speak up about Khatna

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 a research on the individual experience of Khatna and its effects. To read Priya’s first blog in this series, visit ‘How I found out Khatna exists and why I choose to speak out’.

The first time I heard the statement,“Well it could have been you! It could have been anyone! But it happened to me,” by a woman who had gone through khatna, I felt its weight immensely on me.

I do not yet have the answers for why this statement affected me so intensely, but it has strengthened my resolve to understand and generate more awareness about Khatna, because it has affected women for so long and has the capacity to affect many more.

The first step in my research journey is to talk to women who have been directly affected by Khatna. While deciding upon the questions to ask my participants, my number one concern was to not sound insensitive or biased when asking them about Khatna. More importantly, I wondered how to ask questions about something this personal without sounding intrusive. The sensitivity of the questions depends on the context in which you ask the question rather than how you frame it, whereas the intrusiveness of it depends on the reactions from the women.

It was interesting for me to observe that none of the women found the questions to be intrusive or uncomfortable, rather there was a normalized, patterned response given from them, as if these were routine questions. My early hypothesis was that women would feel overwhelmed while responding to these questions, but that is not what I found. There are two possible reasons for this: one, they have been asked these questions before and thus have already reflected on the questions and know the answers for themselves; two, by choosing to speak about Khatna, they have already begun their healing process and by normalizing speaking about the incident they perhaps have taken back a sense of control that they had lost when they underwent it. Future interactions with more women will allow me to formulate a definite conclusion.

It was fascinating to observe that although each woman had an individual experience of Khatna, their stories were eerily similar and the trajectory of growing up and figuring out the significance of it was uncannily alike. A lot of the women I interviewed had repressed their memory of the day of their Khatna, and they grew up without any conscious knowledge of what had happened or what it meant, only to discover its significance much later in life. However, perhaps their discovery of Khatna later in life comes due to the ripple effect created by one woman speaking out. The women I have spoken with have talked about how hearing how other women were speaking about their experiences helped them to remember their own experience of Khatna.  

While interviewing women, some common traits I found among the respondents were curiosity, a fierce need for answers and an extraordinary amount of courage. All the women I interviewed had an aura of strength around them which was empowering. It crushed the fear and hesitancy I had in asking the questions, and it empowered me to not only raise more questions about Khatna. Through reflection, I found that change happens through empowering conversations.

While doing this research, always at the back of my mind, has been the questions of “Who are the changemakers?”  

I recognized that change-makers are those who have the courage to question the law of the land, who show resilience in the face of daunting challenges and who empower others to fuel the fire of change.

These women have empowered me to continue the change, and I request you to join me in further promoting this change. If we do not speak out, then who will?  

To participate in Priya’s research, contact her on

Why the new survey on Khafz (Female Genital Cutting) among Bohras is biased and unscientific

By Mariya Taher, MSW, MFA

Last week, many Dawoodi Bohras around the world received the link to an online “research” survey with questions about Khatna/Khafz practiced in the community. Khafz refers to cutting a portion of a girl’s clitoral hood – a type of Female Genital Cutting – and this new online survey by Dr. Tasneem Saify, Dr. Munira Radhanpurwala T and Dr. Rakhee K claims that it aims to get feedback from Dawoodi Bohra women and men about the practice. (Link to survey is here).

As someone who has gone through the process of designing multiple research studies, I can confidently say that this latest survey on Khatna/Khafz in the Bohra community is neither a safe nor an unbiased tool for conducting proper research on female genital cutting. Other academic researchers who reviewed the Khafz survey have also pointed this out. For example, Usha Tummala-Narra, Ph.D., an associate Professor in the Department of Counseling, Developmental and Educational Psychology at Boston College, states:

The questions are strangely worded, and implicitly and explicitly suggest that the practice is not mutilation or traumatic. There are also no questions related to girls’ or women’s experiences of the practice. We can’t really know much about the definition of khatna/khafz without asking about the experience and its effects over time.”

While Karen A. McDonnell, an Associate Professor and Vice-Chair in the Department of Prevention and Community Health at Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, states:

“Overall this survey presents itself as a feedback mechanism from Dawoodi Bohras about female circumcision. Taking the perspective of someone trained in objective survey development in psychology and public health, the survey actually reads in its entirety, not as a feedback, but rather as a tool for marketing a perspective. As the survey proceeds, the tenor of the questions increase in a lack of objectivity and a central cause/message is quite clear and the respondent is made to feel manipulated.” 

While all research has its limitations, the design of this questionnaire suggests that it clearly was NOT created and sent out into the world to collect empirical unbiased research on the practice FGC/Khatna/Khafz. Instead, the bias and manner of wording of this survey tool express that the authors (Dr. Tasneem Saify, Dr. Munira Radhanpurwala T & Dr. Rakhee K) are seeking responses that will justify their motives to prove that Female Genital Cutting (FGC) does not harm girls.

Which makes me wonder, was this research tool (the survey) even vetted before the study’s implementation?

In 2008, because of my increasing passion to end violence against women, I choose to craft and carry out research for my Master of Social Work thesis on “Understanding the Continuation of Female Genital Cutting Amongst the Dawoodi Bohras in the United States.” The issue had been in the recesses of my mind for years and I wanted to learn how a practice that involves cutting the sexual organs of a young girl could ever have been deemed a religious or cultural practice. I wanted to understand how the issue of Female Genital Cutting (FGC) could continue generation after generation without question, because if I could understand this reasoning, then I could better understand why FGC had been done to me at the age of seven.

As a graduate student, my thesis advisors walked me through every step of the research process, from consulting references and existing studies, to contacting other academics and experts who had studied FGC. In the end, I carried out an exploratory study and crafted questions that could be used to conduct ethnographic interviews. Ethnographic interviewing is a type of qualitative research that combines immersive observation and directed one-on-one interviews. In order to draft the questions, I consulted questions used in previous studies by other researchers. My thesis advisors reviewed the questions, and the San Francisco State University’s Institutional Review Board examined my question to ensure there was no hidden bias in the wording of my questions that could lead participants to answer one way or the other.

Having been through the process once, and understanding the importance of having multiple individuals review your questions for hidden biases, years later, I went through a similar process when Sahiyo designed its study on Khatna among Dawoodi Bohra women. Prior to engaging Bohra women for the study, our research tool (the survey) was vetted by many NGOs and expert researchers.  

If this newest Khafz questionnaire by Dr. Tasneem Saify, Dr. Munira Radhanpurwala T & Dr. Rakhee K had been vetted by other individuals and institutions, it would have recognized the following problems well before releasing the study to the public.

intro.JPG1) Participant consent

Prior to filling out a study, it is important that participants are informed of the study’s intention and are able to sign a consent form acknowledging that they understand the study’s purpose and are giving their permission for the findings to be used in a study’s report. The new Khafz -survey does not have a consent form that does such. [See Screenshot to the left]. In fact, the purpose of this survey is misleading to the reader. There is no mention of how the respondents are being recruited and if their responses will be anonymous or even held in confidence and in essence violates a respondents rights as a participant.

2) Confidentiality

The new Khafz survey form requires participants to provide information that will NOT allow their information to remain private. The study requires that participants add their Community ID (ITS52/Ejamaat) Number. As reported in Mumbai Mirror, the ITS number keeps track of a Dawoodi Bohra’s personal details, including the number of times a person visits the mosque. By requiring an individual to enter this information, already the researchers have directly violated a person’s right to privacy. The question also limits respondents to only those who have signed up for such an ITS number. This, therefore, rules out the participation of many individuals born into the Bohra community or to a Bohra parent who may not have signed up for the ITS card for a variety of reasons, but who have had to undergo FGC as children because of a decision made by a family member or community member.

The mandatory requirement of disclosing one’s ITS number can also discourage an individual from filling out the survey for fear of backlash from the religious community for disagreeing with the practice of Khafz Such backlash occurs on a regular basis against advocates speaking against FGC as can be viewed on Sahiyo’s social media accounts. (See Sahiyo Activist Needs Assessment to learn more about the challenges individuals face when they speak in opposition to FGC).

3) Biased questions Khafz survey Q2

Besides the problematic ITS number, the wording of subsequent questions on the new Khafz survey is biased and considered to be leading questions that prompt survey respondents to answer in a specific manner.  Khafz survey Q5

For instance, Questions 2, 5, 9, and 10 make assumptions about religious freedom, media, and activists, rather than posing the questions and response choices in a more neutral, open-ended form.

Khafz survey Q9n10

Questions 12 and 13 are perfect examples of problematic, leading questions: Question 12 Khafz survey Q1213offers a definition of the word “mutilation” without any context to why the word is being asked. Question #13 then frames the question in a manner that can minimize or under report a participant’s level of distress associated with khatna/khafz, and also automatically suggests to the participant that the practice is not mutilation. 

Question 14 is confusing for another reason. The introductory paragraph by the researchers suggests that male participants can take part in the study, however, Question 14 is written and geared towards female participants who undergo Khatna/khafz. Khafz survey Q14Yet, because of the asterisk (*), the question is mandatory for all respondents, meaning men would have to submit a response to Question #14. This inclusion of information would automatically invalidate the data collected as men have NOT gone through khafz. The wording of the question also infers that all Dawoodi Bohra women have undergone khatna/khafz, which, from anecdotal reports and previous research on FGC in the Bohra community, we recognize is not the case. In fact, we do see a trend in the Bohra community of people wanting to give up the practice on future generations of girls. Yet, the survey makes no mention of this trend or suggests that it is even an option amongst survey respondents.

Overall, the Khafz/Khatna study is problematic for an entire milieu of reasons, not only the ones I have listed here. However, as a researcher, a social worker, and a woman who has undergone FGC because I was born into the Bohra community, what saddens me the most about this survey is that it is yet another attempt to discredit and disbelieve the numerous women and girls who have spoken up and stated that FGC was harmful to them. These women have spoken up for no other reason than to be believed, and instead of comforting them, the researchers of this new Khfaz/Khatna questionnaire are trying to silence them.

How I found out Khatna exists and why I choose to speak out

By Priya Ahluwalia

Snugly sitting on my bed on the wintry night of December, a cold chill ran down my spine as I read through the Change.Org petition against Female Genital Mutilation also known as Female Genital Cutting or Khafz.  I failed to recognize the magnitude of this practice because of the lack of knowledge of my own genitalia, but reading the petition created dread in my mind. The dread transformed into anger, anger towards the society that violated its own daughters, anger towards all those who let the practice continue and anger towards the ignorance of my own immunity. In anger I signed the petition but it was the vicarious traumatisation I went through while reading the petition in the first place that made me speak out.

An implicit responsibility of those choosing to speak out is to create more awareness. However, to my amazement I found that despite the multitudes of women affected by it, the information on FGC was little. Therefore I never understood the true roots of the practice and its implications on the community until this February at Sahiyo’s activists retreat in Mumbai. The retreat was perhaps the most comprehensive and genuine source of information about the Bohra community, the practice of Khafz and its implications. The retreat was also responsible for breaking one of the biggest barriers I had while talking about this practice: intellectualization. I had honed the tendency to talk about FGC mechanically, removing all speck of emotion from my voice as a way of protecting myself from further distress and also to prevent any secondary opinions or personal bias colouring my narrative. However emotions are fundamental to those who choose to speak out including myself, and therefore ignoring them would be a grave injustice to us all. A one-toned discussion has never led to any change, therefore it is integral that while holding a discourse on Khatna, the emotions be incorporated within the facts.

While presenting FGC as a topic in my school and college years, I often noticed the discomfort that many people feel as soon as the term genitalia was introduced. I couldn’t help but wonder that if verbalizing the word caused so much distress to an adult, then imagine the fear felt by the seven-year-old girl whose legs were held apart and her rights stolen away. I can feel the anguish, I can feel the anger and I can feel the betrayal she must have felt, because I could have easily been that girl, but here is where my immunity lies; I come from a community where this form of gender violence does not exist. However, the immune must support raising those who have undergone FGC which is why I chose this as a topic for my master’s thesis.

This was not a decision I took lightly or quickly, because I know the responsibility that lies with me. I had felt reluctance because I wondered if I, an outsider with little understanding of the community and the practice, would be able to do justice to the women and their stories. I do not know how the thesis will turn out but I know that I will do my best to do right by the women who choose to speak to me. They will not be just data but people with stories to tell that need to be protected and preserved. My aim is to understand the practice as a whole and therefore, I do not want to have a hypothesis of the results I will get, rather I wish to incorporate in my research as many voices as I can, both those who are pro-khatna and those who oppose it.

My job as a researcher will be to be open to all narratives and record them as authentically as I can.

All of us have a voice and therefore have the responsibility to use it wisely. Thus, I choose to use my voice for myself and all those women who have been silenced under the burden of tradition.

(Priya Ahluwalia is a 22-year-old clinical psychology student at Tata Institute of Social Sciences – Mumbai. She is passionate about mental health, photography and writing. To participate in her research, contact her on )

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

By Anonymous

Country: United States
Age: 34

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

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

Copy of IMG_3846

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miti sitabi: Sahiyo hosts a special edition of Thaal pe Charcha in Mumbai

Sahiyo’s fifth Thaal pe Charcha event in Mumbai on April 7 was perhaps its most special one so far. On popular demand by the regular participants of the group, this Thaal pe Charcha was a miti sitabi — a special women’s meal hosted in honour of the Prophet’s daughter, Ma Fatema. At Sahiyo’s event, this special meal was hosted as a tribute to those Bohra girls who were not allowed to participate in miti sitabis if they were not circumcised.

Thaal pe Charcha, which loosely translates as “discussions over food”, is a Sahiyo flagship programme that brings together Bohra women and men in a safe space to share their feelings, experiences and views on Female Genital Cutting or khatna, while bonding over traditional Bohra food. This programme began in February 2017 with a group of 16 Bohra women and now has more than 30 women and men associated with it.

The April 7 Thaal pe Charcha had 21 of those participants, including five men. In fact, while there were two women-only thaals (traditional large dishes for seating 8 people) for the miti sitabi meal, this was the first time that a group of Bohra men had their own historic miti sitabi thaal. The meal began with traditional jaggery and roti, which is eaten at the start of every miti sitabi. At the end of the meal, participants completed the traditions by applying henna, perfume and small gifts with each other.

The only tradition that this miti sitabi did not follow was that of khatna, of using khatna as a definer of who a true Bohra is and who gets to sit at special community thaal events. This miti sitabi was open to all.

At the Thaal pe Charcha event, participants also shared stories about their journeys after they started speaking out about FGC. One participant, who was attending a Thaal pe Charcha for the first time, talked about how she resisted family pressure and managed to spare her younger daughter from the cut, even though she could not save her older daughter. Another participant shared her experience of having a khatna discussion with her father, who was convinced that FGC was mandated by the Shariat. However, after she had a heartfelt conversation with him, her father acknowledged the pain she had been put through and apologised to her.  Participants concluded the Thaal pe Charcha with a lively discussion on other kinds of social norms, besides khatna, that patriarchal communities use to repress women.

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Building the data on Female Genital Cutting in the Bohra Community

In February 2017, Sahiyo released the findings of the first ever large scale global study on Female Genital Cutting in the Bohra community in order to gain insight into how and why this harmful practice continued. A year later, this February 2018 saw the release of a second large-scale research study entitled “The Clitoral Hood – A Contested Site”, conducted by Lakshmi Anantnarayan, Shabana Diler and Natasha Menon in collaboration with WeSpeakOut and Nari Samata Manch. The study explored the practice of FGM/C in the Bohra community specifically in India and added findings about the sexual impact of FGC on Bohra women. Substantial overlap between the two studies can be found and parallels can be drawn.

Firstly, both studies explored the type of FGM/C that was carried out on the participants. The study by Sahiyo discovered that out of the 109 participants who were aware of the procedure that was carried out on them, 23 reported having undergone Type 1a – the removal of the clitoral hood. Research carried out by Anantnarayan et. al. found that although proponents of FGM/C in India claim that Bohras only practice Type 1a and Type 4 FGM/C (pricking, piercing or cauterization of the clitoral hood), participants reported that both Types 1a and 1b (partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or clitoral hood) are most often practiced.

Sahiyo and Anantnarayan et. al. both found that the majority of participants had undergone FGM/C and therefore, among both samples, FGM/C was widely practiced. Sahiyo found that 80% of 385 female participants had undergone the practice, whereas Anantnarayan et. al. found that of the 83 female participants in the study, 75% reported that their daughters had undergone FGC. Both studies found that FGM/C was performed at around the age of seven.

The impact of FGM/C on participants was also reported to be similar among participants of both studies. In exploring this further, Anantnarayan et. al. found that 97% of participants remembered FGM/C as a painful experience. Participants who had undergone the practice reported painful urination, physical discomfort, difficulty walking, and bleeding to be the immediate effects after having undergone FGM/C. In the long-term, some women reported that they suffered from recurring Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) and incontinence, which they suspect could be linked to their khatna.

Both studies also explored the effect of FGM/C on participants’ sex lives. Anantnarayan et. al. found that approximately 33% of participants believe that FGM/C has negatively impacted their sex life. Similarly, Sahiyo reported findings of 35% of participants who believed that FGM/C has negatively impacted their sex lives. Some of the problems identified by several participants included low sex drive, the inability to feel sexual pleasure, difficulty trusting sexual partners, and over-sensitivity in the clitoral area.

Physical consequences of FGM/C in both studies also revealed psychological consequences. Similar to Sahiyo’s findings, Anantnarayan et. al. found that many participants reported feelings of fear, anxiety, shame, anger, depression, low self-esteem, and difficulty trusting people as some of the psychological repercussions of their FGM/C experience. Sahiyo found that 48% of participants in their study reported that FGM/C had left them with a lasting psychological impact.

Both Sahiyo and Anantnarayan et. al. also explored the main reasons for the the continuation of FGM/C within the Bohra community. Several common reasons were found, including the continuation of an old traditional practice, the adherence to religious edicts, and to control women’s promiscuity and sexual behaviour.

Interestingly, Sahiyo’s study found that 80% of women had earned at least a Bachelor’s degree, no relationship could be determined between education level and having undergone FGC. Meanwhile, the study by Anantnarayan et. al found that a strong connection existed between a mother’s education level and her decision to continue FGC on her daughter.

Sahiyo’s study, however, did note that more important than education level was the question of a person’s ideological preference (stated religion) as it might influence a person’s decision to continue FGC on their daughter. In fact, Sahiyo’s survey found that those who were most likely to continue ‘khatna’ were also more likely to still identify as Dawoodi Bohra in their adult life. Anantnarayan et. al also determined that the more diverse personal networks and economic independence from the Bohra religious community a woman had, the more likely they were to discontinue FGM/C and renounce it.

Finally, both studies examined the relationship between men and the decision/involvement for a girl to undergo FGC. Both studies did allude to the idea that the decision leading to a girl undergoing FGM/C may not strictly be confined to women. Sahiyo’s study revealed that 72% of respondents believed that men were aware of the practice, but only 27% believed that men were told of the practice when the girl underwent it in their family. Anantnarayan et. al. concluded that men played an integral role in the maintenance and propagation of the practice, both at the personal and political level, whether passively or more actively. However, Sahiyo’s data collection was completed in 2016, prior to the large-scale movement to end FGC in the Bohra community. The last few years have shown that with an increase in awareness of FGC amongst the public, Bohra men’s own knowledge of FGC has also naturally increased, and thus the traditional idea that men are unaware of FGC may in fact be changing with the current generation, as pointed out by Anantnarayan et. al.


My fight with a male cousin who thinks Khatna is good

By: Shabana Feroze

Every year, Feb 6 is International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation by the United Nations. Being a survivor of FGC myself, I’m an active volunteer with Sahiyo, and as such, I shared a post about the day and about Sahiyo on my facebook profile page. I got a few likes but after a few hours, one of my male cousins commented on the post with a link to The article on that website spoke about how FGC is necessary and a good thing.

When I saw that comment, I was naturally affronted. The first thought that ran through my head towards my male cousin was – no vagina, no opinion, sweetheart. It bothers me so much that MEN think they can make decisions on what needs to be done to women’s bodies. You are not a woman. You are not entitled to tell women what we can or cannot do with our bodies. I underwent FGC when I was seven. I’m the one who was traumatized. Not you. I’m the one who has to deal with the pain that part of my body is missing because of a traditional ritual, not you. How dare you tell me that what happened to me was necessary and a good thing and that it should continue happening.

I had a long argument with him through Facebook comments, telling him the thoughts I listed above. I even said that if he thinks the practice is good and necessary, then the girl should be able to grow up and decide to do it for herself. His response, “My Body, My Rights is a cheesy line”. His lack of acknowledging my personal experience in having undergone FGC said to me that he believed the larger society could do anything to my body or to any one else’s body. He then posted another link from the same website on consent and parental rights. The article claims

“Although regulated, a parent’s right to make decisions on behalf of a child is acknowledged as fundamental and universal, even for practices which can cause harm to the child and carry no medical benefit.”

Yes, the article acknowledged that FGC is harmful, but the article lessened the pain, and compared FGC to practices such as ear piercing and vaccinations. These procedures are legal and harmless. The article also claimed that Prophet Muhammad said FGC should be done, and gave a few spiritual and religious reasons like ‘taharah’ for doing so. His recurring point was that KHAFZ IS NOT FGM (written in caps).

Throughout the conversation of me refuting his points with science and hard fact and telling him that the World Health Organisation recognizes all forms of cutting of the female genitalia as FGM, I found that his counter points were always mired in spirituality and religion (this cousin of mine is a mulla or a sheik in the Bohra community).

I find the entire notion that ‘khafz is not FGC’ as preposterous. It’s the same thing, no matter what name you give it. Medical research has shown that FGC is harmful. FGC is opposed by the United Nations and the World Health Organization. So please don’t tell me that FGC is a good thing. Further what really, truly angers me is that my cousin, this MAN is fighting me on and issue that affects the woman’s body, my body! My cousin’s attitude reminded me of his male privilege, and his inability to understand that he has no ability to control my body or to think he knows what is best for me as a woman. And this reality scares and saddens me the most because my cousin is also the father of two girls, who if they undergo FGC, will forever be reminded that they too, just like me, had no control over our own bodies.


‘Here I am, sharing my story’: Watch a Dawoodi Bohra woman narrate her Khatna experience

In October 2017, at Sahiyo’s third Thaal Pe Charcha event, a young Indian Bohra woman, Saleha Paatwala, shared her experience of being subjected to “khafz” — also known as khatna or Female Genital Cutting — with the other participants.

On this International Day of Zero Tolerance towards Female Genital Cutting (FGM/C), watch this poignant video (below) of Saleha narrating her story.

“When I was cut, I didn’t even know what part of me was taken away by them, and for what. I was just a 7-year-old girl then. I remember the pain of that ‘nick’, the embarrassment of lying naked in front of those women, and those goosebumps when they touched my private part,” said Saleha, explaining why she chose to speak out. “By sharing my story, I hope to reach out to those who have suffered and can’t find their voices, to those who are unaware of this practice and most importantly, to those who can help us eradicate FGM/C completely from our country.”

ખતના વિષે કેવી રીતે વાતચીત કરવી : પ્રભાવશાળી વાતચીત માટે માર્ગદર્શન

છેલ્લા બે વર્ષમાં દાઉદી બોહરા સમાજે છોકરીઓ માટેની ખતના પ્રથા, જે ખફ્ઝ, ફીમેલ જેનિટલ કટિંગ (એફ.સી.જી) અથવા ફીમેલ જેનિટલ મ્યુટિલેશન (એફ.જી.એમ) તરીકે પણ જાણીતી છે, તે સંબંધી ઘણા વાદવિવાદો જોયા છે. ડેટ્રોઈટ, અમેરિકામાં ફીમેલ જેનિટલ કટિંગના આરોપ હેઠળ દાઉદી બોહરા ડૉક્ટરોની ધરપકડ થયા બાદ, ઘણા દાઉદી બોહરાઓ ખતના બાબતના તેમના મૌનને તોડવા ઈચ્છે છે અને તેમના કુટુંબીજનો અને મિત્રો સાથે એ વિષે વાતચીત કરવા ઈચ્છે છે. ઘણા લોકો તેમના કુટુંબીજનો અને મિત્રોને તેમની દીકરીઓ પર ખતના પ્રથાનો ઉપયોગ બંધ કરવાનું સમજાવવા ઈચ્છે છે.

પરંતુ, આ વાતચીત કેવી રીતે કરવી એ તેઓ જાણતા નથી.

ખતના સંબંધી પ્રભાવશાળી વાતચીત કરવામાં મદદરૂપ થવા માટે અમે એક ગાઈડ તૈયાર કરી છે. અમે ઈચ્છીએ છીએ કે તમારા મિત્રો અને કુટુંબીજનો સાથે આ બાબત પર વાતચીત શરૂ કરતા પહેલા તમે આ ગાઈડ પર એક નજર કરો.

સાંભળવાની શક્તિ અને વાત કહેવાની કલા પરથી સતત સંવાદ કરતા રહેવાનું સ્વીકારવા અને તેના મહત્વને સમજવામાં આવતી મૂશ્કેલીઓ સંબંધી કેટલાક પાસાઓ વિષે જાણશું.

1) સાભળવું :

અન્ય વ્યક્તિને ધ્યાનથી સાંભળવામાં ખૂબ જ શક્તિ છે. નિર્ણય અને અનુમાન કર્યા વિના, બસ શાંતિથી અને ધ્યાનથી તેમને સાંભળો.

વ્યક્તિએ કેવુ મહેસુસ કરવું અથવા શું કરવું જોઈએ, તેવી સલાહ આપવાના બદલે તેમની વાત સાંભળો અને તેના પર વિચાર કરો.

જોકે, પ્રભાવશાળી સંવાદ માટે એક યોગ્ય મર્યાદા નક્કી કરવી એ મહત્વનું છે. જો કોઈ વ્યક્તિ તમારી સાથે સારો વ્યવહાર ના કરતી હોય તો, તેમની સાથે સંવાદ બંધ કરી શકો છો

 a) પૂરી વાત કરી શકે તેવા પ્રશ્નો પૂછો :

સૂચક અથવા ટૂંકા પ્રશ્નો જેનો જવાબ ફક્ત હા અથવા ના હોય તેવા પ્રશ્નોના બદલે, ડીટેલવાળા પ્રશ્નો લોકોને તેમની સાથે બનેલી ઘટનાને સમજવામાં મદદરૂપ થાય છે અને તેમની પોતાની આંતરિક શક્તિ સાથે જોડે છે.

 “તમે સારૂં મેહસુસ કરો છો?” તેવો પ્રશ્ન કરવાના બદલે તમે કેવું મેહસુસ કરો છો?” તેવો પ્રશ્ન કરો.

 b) વિચારશીલ ભાષાનો ઉપયોગ કરો :

નીચે જેવા વાક્યોનો ઉપયોગ કરો

  • “મેં સાંભળ્યું કે તમે…..” અથવા
  • “મને એવું લાગે છે કે……”

તેની સાથે ચોક્કસ ના હોય તેવા વાક્યોનો ઉપયોગ કરો જેમ કે,

  • “મને આશ્ચર્ય થાય છે કે તમે….?” અથવા
  • “હું તે બરાબર સમજ્યો?”

તેનાથી લોકોને, તેઓ કેવું અનુભવી રહ્યાં છે તે સમજવામાં અને તમારી સમજને સુધારવામાં મદદ મળે છે તેમજ, તેઓ જે કંઈ કહેવા ઈચ્છે છે તે પ્રત્યેના તમારા ઈન્ટરેસ્ટને બતાવે છે. લોકો તેમના અનુભવનું વર્ણન કરવા જે ભાષાનો ઉપયોગ કરે, તેવી જ ભાષામાં જો તમે તેમની સાથે વાત કરો તો તમે તેમની ઈચ્છા પર ખરા ઉતરો છો અને તમારી સાથે ખુલા દીલથી વાત કરે છે.

તમે કોઈ વ્યક્તિની ખાસ ભાષાને સાંભળો ત્યારે એફ.જી.એમ./સી. સંબંધી શબ્દો ધ્યાનમાં રાખવા. જેમાં, તેઓ એફ.જી.એમ./સી.- “ખતના”, “એફ.જી.સી.”, “સ્ત્રીની સુન્નત” “પ્રક્રિયા” નો સંદર્ભ કેવી રીતે આપે છે તે સમાવિષ્ટ છે. તમે તેવા શબ્દોનો ઉપયોગ ના કરતા હોવા છતાં, બોલનાર વ્યક્તિ જેવા શબ્દોનો ઉપયોગ કરવાથી તેણીને મહેસુસ થશે કે તમે તેણીના નજરયાનો આદર કરો છો.

 c) અંગત અનુભવો માન્ય કરો :

ઘણી વાર લાંછન અને માનસિક આઘાત લોકોને તેઓ એકલા હોય તેવું મેહસુસ કરાવે છે. જ્યારે તમે શરૂઆતમાં તેમની વાત સાંભળો ત્યારે રાજનૈતિક લડાઈ અથવા સૈદ્ધાંતિક દલીલોમાં પડવું યોગ્ય નથી. કોઈ સ્ત્રી ખતના વિષેનો તેમનો અનુભવ જણાવતી હોય અથવા કોઈ વ્યક્તિ એવું જણાવતા હોય કે ધાર્મિક કારણોને લીધે ખતનાનું પાલન થવું જોઈએ તો, તેવી વ્યક્તિને કોઈ તેમને સાંભળી રહ્યું છે તેવો અહેસાસ કરાવી તેમની મદદ કરો. શાંતિથી પૂરી વાત સાંભળ્યા બાદ તમે તમારા વિચારો કહી શકો છો.

2) સંવાદ દરમિયાન એકબીજા સાથે બનેલી ઘટનાઓ શેર કરો:

વાત કરવાની કલા અને હુન્નર, જે એવા લોકોમાં ડર પેદા કરી શકે છે જે એમ માનતા હોય કે તેમની પાસે શેર કરવા જેવી કોઈ વાત નથી. ખાસ કરી, જો તે વાત અંગત, હરામ અથવા છૂપી બાબત વિષે હોય. વાત કરવાની રીત, તેણી શું કહેવા માગે છે, કોને કહેવા માગે છે અને તેના પરિણામ રૂપે તેણી શું અપેક્ષા રાખે છે, તેનો પૂરો વિચાર કરવાની વ્યકિતની ક્ષમતામાં સહાયરૂપ થાય છે, જ્યારે તેણીની વાતનો ઉપયોગ અને તેના ફેલાવ પર પૂરતું નિયંત્રણ મેળવો.

 a) જોખમો જાણો :

અંગત વાતને શેર કરવી, વ્યક્તિને વધારે શસક્ત મેહસુસ કરાવે છે અને એફ.સી.જી.ના અનુભવ હેઠળથી પસાર થયેલા મિત્રો અથવા અન્ય કુટુંબીજનો સાથે જોડે છે. પરંતુ, તેમાં અંગત જોખમો પણ ઉદભવી શકે છે,  વ્યક્તિ તેની વાત જણાવ્યા પછી પોતાને વધુ નિર્બળ અને એકલા મેહસુસ કરી શકે છે અથવા અન્ય લોકો દ્વારા તેને શરમિંદા કરવામાં આવી શકે છે.

લોકો જ્યારે તેમની વાત જણાવે ત્યારે તેમને જબરદસ્તી, બળજબરી અથવા શરમિંદા કરશો નહિં. લોકો તેમની વાત તમારી સાથે શેર કરવા પ્રોત્સાહન અને સહાયતા મહેસુસ કરે તેવી પરિસ્થિતિનું નિર્માણ કરવાનો પ્રયત્ન કરો.

 b) ફક્ત પોઈન્ટ્સમાં નહિં, આખી વાત બતાવો :

સ્ટોરીમાં સમજાવવાની, પ્રભાવ પાડવાની, પ્રેરણા આપવાની અને પગલાં લેવા લોકોને પ્રેરિત કરવાની તાકાત હોય છે. માનવીય, જોખમી અને પ્રામાણિક સ્ટોરીઓ સરળતાથી પોઈન્ટ્સમાં બેસતી નથી પરંતુ, અસમાનતા ધરાવતા વિવિધ પ્રકારના લોકોને એકસાથે જોડવાની તેમાં અકલ્પનીય શક્તિ હોય છે. લોકો તેમની વાત તમારી સાથે શેર કરવા પ્રોત્સાહન અને સહાયતા મહેસુસ કરે તેવી પરિસ્થિતિનું નિર્માણ કરવાનો પ્રયત્ન કરો.

3) સિક્કાની બન્ને બાજુઓને સ્વીકારો :

ખતનાની પ્રક્રિયા હેઠળથી પસાર થયેલી વ્યક્તિએ પીડા અને ઉદાસીનતાનો અનુભવ કર્યો હોય શકે અને/અથવા એવુ કંઈ જ અનુભવ્યું ના હોય. તેણી તે બાબતને અંગત રાખવા ઈચ્છતી હોય શકે અને તેણીને અન્ય લોકો સાથે ભાવનાત્મક લગાવની જરૂર હોય શકે. તેણી એફ.સી.જી.ને ખોટું માનતી હોવા છતાં, તેણી ધાર્મિક રીતે તેને સાચું માની શકે છે. તેણી એવી અન્ય ઘણા પ્રકારની મિક્સ લાગણીઓ મહેસુસ કરી શકે છે, જે શરૂઆતમાં વિચીત્ર લાગી શકે છે.  ઘણા બધા હકીકતો એક સાથે હોઈ શકે છે એ સમજવું મહત્વનું છે.

ખતના કેવી રીતે કરવામાં આવ્યું અને ખતના પ્રત્યેની તેણી જે મેહસુસ કરે છે તે સંબંધી મુદ્દાઓ સમજવા હંમેશા સરળ નથી હોતા અને બદલાવ તેમજ નવી સમજના દ્વાર ખોલવા, આપણે પરિસ્થિતિના બધા પાસાંઓને સ્વીકારવા અને જાણવા જરૂરી છે. ‘આ/પેલું’ના બદલે ‘બન્ને/તથા’ના રીતનો ઉપયોગ વધુ મદદરૂપ થાય છે.

       તમારા નજરીયાને બદલો :

જો આખું વિશ્વ આ મુદ્દાને તમારા નજરીયાથી જુએ તો તે સરળ હોય શકે છે પરંતુ, વાસ્તવમાં તે શક્ય નથી. વિરોધનું અસ્તિત્વ છે કારણ કે, આપણે ઈન્સાન છીએ અને આપણી અલગ-અલગ પૂર્વભૂમિકાઓ, પંરપરા અને માન્યતાઓનો અર્થ છે કે આપણે વિશ્વને અને તેના મુદ્દાઓને અનોખી અને અલગ-અલગ રીતે સમજીએ છીએ. આપણા બધામાં સમાવિષ્ટ સહાનુભૂતિ અને પ્રેમ જેવા સાર્વત્રિક માનવ સત્યોને માન આપો અને એફ.જી.સી.ના કારણે અમુક સ્ત્રીઓને શારિરીક અને માનસિક પીડા ભોગવે છે, જ્યારે અન્ય સ્ત્રીઓ કહે છે કે તેમને આવી પીડાનો અનુભવ નથી થયો, આવા અમુક ખાસ અને વિશિષ્ટ અનુભવોને ઓળખો. બધા લોકોને સહાય કરવી અને આદર આપવો એ મહત્વની બાબત છે.

4) વાતચીત ચાલુ રાખો :

સામાજિક બદલાવ આવતા સમય લાગે છે અને અવારનવાર આપણે એક સંવાદમાં જેવા પરિણામો જોઈએ છે તે મળતા નથી. તેથી, વાતચીત દરમિયાન જે કંઈ બને તેની નોંધ લેવી મહત્વનું છે અને ક્યારેક બધા પક્ષોને સામેલ થવા દો અને તેના પર વીચાર કરો. તેમ છતાં, તેને તમારી છેલ્લી વાતચીત ના બનવા દો. જો આપણે એકબીજા સાથે સતત વાતચીત કરતા રહીએ તો જ બદલાવ આવી શકે છે.