A woman’s open letter to PM Modi on freedom from Female Genital Mutilation

NEW DELHI, Aug 19 :

Dear Prime Minister Narendra Modi,

It was heartwarming to hear you specially refer to the plight of Muslim women who suffer from the practice of triple talaq, which is anti-women, on Independence day.

Our independence will always be incomplete if women are subjugated, raped, burnt and tortured in the name of custom, tradition and religion. Our constitution pledges to give us equality but in reality it is denied every time a girl foetus is killed, every time a bride is beaten up or tortured or even burnt in the name of dowry, every time a child is married off, every time a girl is molested, harassed and sexually assaulted.

Yes, unilateral triple talaq is unjust, but that is not the only issue which plagues the women of this country. I want to tell you about the practice of female genital mutilation which is performed on young minor girls who do not have the freedom to choose. Whose bodies are violated beyond repair despite there being a huge outcry against this practice across the world.

I take this opportunity to draw your attention to the horrific practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as khatna or khafz, which is being perpetuated for centuries in our Bohra community. Bohras are a Shia Ismailia sect which are largely based out of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. There are approximately 2 million bohras.

Let me tell you what happens in my community even today. Whenever a girl child turns 7, she is taken by either her mother or grandmother to a local dai, or now a local doctor, surreptitiously without disclosing anything to the child and there the dai or midwife or the doctor cuts a part of her clitoris (specifically the clitoral hood). The resultant excruciating physical, sexual and emotional trauma of this act is life long.

There is one and only one reason this inhuman practice is performed: to tamper with the sexual desires of the girl/woman.

According to WHO, “FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s right to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.”

One last point that I want to bring to your notice is that what we are asking for is really doable without in any way affecting our religious tenets, rights , practice and traditions. There are several countries in the world like USA, UK, France, Australia etc., where already the Bohras are banned from performing FGM and are being prosecuted if and when they violate the laws in their countries which ban FGM. The same can be very well done in India and a pernicious centuries old practice can be ended under your stalwartship.

Please ban FGM/Khafz in India and through it Bohra Beti Bachao.

Yours truly,

Masooma Ranalvi
Convener – ‘WeSpeakOut On FGM’
http://www.wespeakout.org

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