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Female Genital Mutilation: An Open Secret In India

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By Pinak Pani Datta:

Women wait in a queue to cast their votes at a polling station in Shabazpur Dor village in Amroha district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh April 17, 2014. India kicked off the biggest day of its mammoth general election on Thursday, with a quarter of its 815 million voters set to head to the polls during a week of fresh blows for the ruling Congress party and gains for the Hindu nationalist opposition. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTR3LNEL
Representation only. Source: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

“I am 60 years old (Indian woman) now, but will remember that fateful day for the rest of my life. I must have been around 7-years-old when my mother told me we were going to my grandma’s house to spend the day with her. When we reached my grandma’s house, my cousin (my mum’s sister’s daughter), who was a year younger than me, was also there. We were happy to meet each other.

Then, we were both led to a small room, which had a bed and asked to lie down. We kept asking “Why?” Suddenly, a lady dressed in black came into the room. By now, my cousin and I were terrified, not aware of what was to follow. Our dresses were pulled up and our panties pulled off, and we were asked to keep our legs apart. There were our mothers and our aunts holding our legs apart and then I felt something cold being applied to my clitoris, and then to my horror, the lady in black, actually held a scissor-like instrument and cut me there — I screamed and screamed but no one seemed to care. Then this same thing was done to my cousin, who was right next to me on the same bed.”

I came across this entry on this blog www.breakthesilencespeakthetruth.wordpress.com. At first, I thought it was just another blog protesting against rapes and violence against females, but to my horror, this was something much more terrible.

Female genital mutilation/circumcision is a traditional custom practiced by many religious sects of the world. The World Health Organization defines it as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genital organs for non-medicinal reasons.”

It is probably one of the best-kept secrets of modern India. In India, it is widely practiced by the Dawoodi Bohra community, a sect of the Shia-Muslims, who are led by the Syedna. Locally termed as ‘Khatna’, this practice has no medical justification at all. Some of the reasons include family honor, increasing sexual pleasure for the male, enhancing fertility, social acceptance (especially for marriage) and preservation of virginity/chastity.

In India, the Bohra community is a very small one compared to the entire population; added to that, the girls are generally circumcised just after/before they attain their puberty. So, the matter, even though unjust, gets buried inside the girls’ mind like any normal process like menstruation. Many women believe that FGM is necessary to ensure acceptance by their community; they are unaware that FGM is not practiced in most of the world. A letter to Molly Melching, Chairperson of an NGO named Tostan working against FGM, by an anonymous Indian lady exposes how this custom has been practiced for centuries; people are either too afraid or too embarrassed to raise their voice against such oppression.

Depending on the degree of mutilation FGM can cause severe pain and shock, uterus, vaginal and pelvic infections, complications in pregnancy and childbirth, sexual dysfunction, difficulties in menstruation and psychological damages among many consequences. In addition to these there are considerable psychosexual, psychological and social consequences of FGM.

A typical profile of a woman who undertakes the job of female circumcision in India is a 75-year-old ‘uneducated but literate’ Bohra woman with no registered medical experience. She says that she has inherited this work from her family. Her grandmother used to perform ‘Khatna’ but her mother never learnt the trade as she was married in an economically well-to-do family. She herself has done it for 35 years till her eyes stopped supporting her. Today, all her three daughters-in-law do female circumcision and supplement their husband’s meager income. According to her, no other Muslim group in India other than the Bohras practices it.

An activist, who prefers to be named Tasleem, has launched a campaign on Facebook and is making sincere efforts to collect signatures to petition to the Bohra High Priest His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin asking for a ban on this ritual, this cruelty being foisted on Bohra females.

If you really believe this is an unjust practice, support Tasleem and raise a voice against one of the worst violence on women in modern history.

You must be to comment.
  1. Ektha_dsilva

    This was a really difficult and sickening truth to learn about.

    1. Roze

      What’s all this fuss about Female circumcision ? I am a happily circumcised Muslim woman and have no problem with it, so why should anybody ? I don’t have a smelly piece of skin covering my clit. So what. I am better off without it. I chose to have it removed when it gave me some problems including a bad smell which my husband found irritating and often complained about when we had oral sex. It also gave me painful irritations once in a while. What the procedure involved was removing the prepuce from my clit, the female equivalent of the male foreskin. My sex life has since improved greatly. And its good to know that my religion Islam demands it, despite what some so-called Islamic scholars have to say about it. Even western women are going for it under the name of hoodectomy. Here’s a great site about it – http://www.umatia.org/2011/Safe%20Female%20circumcision.doc

    2. apoorva

      Boy I feel bad for your daughters.

    3. Anonumous

      Extract from the link posted by you: “CLITORAL UNHOODING IS NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH THIS COMMONLY MISTAKEN PROCEDURE AND IS NOT A FORM OF Female Genital Mutilation ( FGM.)” You have undergone this procedure willingly. The issue here is children are being forced to undergo Mutilation. You have not been cruelly mutilated. So please don’t disregard the issue by stating what the fuss is about.

  2. Manisha

    I have checked so many articles on this. Also seen videos. Its really a cruel thing…
    And the worst part is, its performed on kids. I am going to sign the petition..

  3. archana

    i worked on it by the help of sculpture.. i m sculpture artist.. if u suggest something which i add on my work then plz reply me.

  4. whoever

    I do not care for who I offend in saying this but depsite it being tradition etc… this is still a barbaric act – I had an epistiomy in child birth and could not bear the pain.. can u imagine how the little girl feels when mummy or nanny cuts her cunt to bits.. do u really think that the minds of those indivuals is normal – NO – its only drummed into them because of centuries of tradition – the women are scared for life.. bc of a lack of respect for the beautiful female body – no matter how much u cut u still wont make something pure… God created us how he wanted it u should therefore leave it alone- FGM is as bad as justifying murder its sick abolish it now.

  5. K. Sirirathana (Rev.)

    Women who cut off girls’ clitorises must be publicly hung

  6. Ahmed

    Robert, are you Jewish? The way you misquote the Old Testament, you cannot be a true Christian. Anyway here’s what Islam has to say about it. And please remember Christians in Egypt, Ethiopia and much of the Middle East practice female circumcision like their Muslim sisters.

    There are many sayings of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) to show the important place, circumcision, whether of males or females, occupies in Islam. Among these traditions is the one where the Prophet is reported to have declared circumcision (khitan) to be sunnat for men and ennobling for women (Baihaqi).

    He is also known to have declared that the bath (following sexual intercourse without which no prayer is valid) becomes obligatory when both the circumcised parts meet (Tirmidhi). The fact that the Prophet defined sexual intercourse as the meeting of the male and female circumcised parts (khitanul khitan or khitanain) when stressing on the need for the obligatory post-coital bath could be taken as pre-supposing or indicative of the obligatory nature of circumcision in the case of both males and females.

    Stronger still is his statement classing circumcision (khitan) as one of the acts characteristic of the fitra or God-given nature (Or in other words, Divinely-inspired natural inclinations of humans) such as the shaving of pubic hair, removing the hair of the armpits and the paring of nails (Bukhari) which again shows its strongly emphasized if not obligatory character in the case of both males and females. Muslim scholars are of the view that acts constituting fitra which the Prophet expected Muslims to follow are to be included in the category of wajib or obligatory.

    That the early Muslims regarded female circumcision as obligatory even for those Muslims who embraced Islam later in life is suggested by a tradition occurring in the Adab al Mufrad of Bukhari where Umm Al Muhajir is reported to have said: “I was captured with some girls from Byzantium. (Caliph) Uthman offered us Islam, but only myself and one other girl accepted Islam. Uthman said: ‘Go and circumcise them and purify them.’”

    More recently, we had Sheikh Jadul Haqq, the distinguished head of Al Azhar declaring both male and female circumcision to be obligatory religious duties (Khitan Al Banat in Fatawa Al-Islamiyyah. 1983). The fatwa by his successor Tantawi who opposed the practice cannot be taken seriously as we all know that he has pronounced a number of unislamic fatwas such as declaring bank interest halal and questioning the obligation of women wearing headscarves.

    At the same time, however, what is required in Islam, is the removal of only the prepuce of the clitoris, and not the clitoris itself as is widely believed. The Prophet told Umm Atiyyah, a lady who circumcised girls in Medina: “When you circumcise, cut plainly and do not cut severely, for it is beauty for the face and desirable for the husband” (idha khafadti fa ashimmi wa la tanhaki fa innahu ashraq li’l wajh wa ahza ind al zawj) (Abu Dawud, Al Awsat of Tabarani and Tarikh Baghdad of Al Baghdadi).

    This hadith clearly explains the procedure to be followed in the circumcision of girls. The words: “Cut plainly and do not cut severely” (ashimmi wa la tanhaki) is to be understood in the sense of removing the skin covering the clitoris, and not the clitoris. The expression “It is beauty (more properly brightness or radiance) for the face” (ashraq li’l wajh) is further proof of this as it simply means the joyous countenance of a woman, arising out of her being sexually satisfied by her husband. The idea here is that it is only with the removal of the clitoral prepuce that real sexual satisfaction could be realized. The procedure enhances sexual feeling in women during the sex act since a circumcised clitoris is much more likely to be stimulated as a result of direct oral, penile or tactile contact than the uncircumcised organ whose prepuce serves as an obstacle to direct stimulation.

    A number of religious works by the classical scholars such as Fath Al Bari by Ibn Hajar Asqalani and Sharhul Muhadhdhab of Imam Nawawi have stressed on the necessity of removing only the prepuce of the clitoris and not any part of the organ itself. It is recorded in the Majmu Al Fatawa that when Ibn Taymiyyah was asked whether the woman is circumcised, he replied: “Yes we circumcise. Her circumcision is to cut the uppermost skin (jilda) like the cock’s comb.” More recently Sheikh Jadul Haqq declared that the circumcision of females consists of the removal of the clitoral prepuce (Khitan Al Banat in Fatawa Al Islamiyya. 1983).
    Besides being a religious duty, the procedure is believed to facilitate good hygiene since the removal of the prepuce of the clitoris serves to prevent the accumulation of smegma, a foul-smelling, germ-containing cheese- like substance that collects underneath the prepuces of uncircumcised women (See Al Hidaayah. August 1997).

    A recent study by Sitt Al Banat Khalid ‘Khitan Al-Banat Ru’ yah Sihhiyyah’ (2003) has shown that female circumcision, like male circumcision, offers considerable health benefits, such as prevention of urinary tract infections and other diseases such as cystitis affecting the female reproductive organs.

    The latest is the study Orgasmic Dysfunction Among Women at a Primary Care Setting in Malaysia. Hatta Sidi, and Marhani Midin, and Sharifah Ezat Wan Puteh, and Norni Abdullah, (2008) Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health, 20 (4) accessible http://myais.fsktm.um.edu.my/4480/ which shows that being Non-Malay is a higher risk factor for Orgasmic Sexual Dysfunction in women, implying that Malay women experience less problems in achieving orgasm than non-Malay women. As you know almost all Malay women in Malaysia are circumcised (undergo hoodectomy) in contrast to non-Malay women who are not. This would suggest that hoodectomy does in fact contribute to an improved sex life in women rather than diminishing it as some argue.

    Another good reason why women need a hoodectomy (Islamic female circumcision). It can prevent cancer arising from oral sex. Here’s an interesting news item:
    US scientists said Sunday there is strong evidence linking oral sex to cancer, and urged more study of how human papillomaviruses may be to blame for a rise in oral cancer among white men. In the United States, oral cancer due to HPV infection is now more common than oral cancer from tobacco use, which remains the leading cause of such cancers in the rest of the world.
    Researchers have found a 225-percent increase in oral cancer cases in the United States from 1974 to 2007, mainly among white men, said Maura Gillison of Ohio State University. “The rise in oral cancer in the US is predominantly among young white males and we do not know the answer as to why.”
    It is obvious that the only way men can acquire the HPV virus is through the oral stimulation of one’s partner’s clitoris which allows the virus to enter the mouth. The virus no doubt is harboured in the prepuce of the clitoris just as it has been found that HPV also resides in the foreskins of males, through the transmission of which cervical cancer occurs in females. Thus a hoodectomy could, by removing the part that harbours the virus, significantly reduce or eliminate the risk of women transmitting the virus to their male partners.

    For more benefits of Islamic female circumcision also known as hoodectomy see http://www.umatia.org/2011/Safe%20Female%20circumcision.doc

  7. Fergus Misquitta

    I may be totally wrong but I was once told that F G M is done mainly to ensure that the man can have a longer session of sexual intercourse and prevents the woman from reaching a climax too soon; thereby making it more pleasurable for the man — the woman’s part in the pleasure is of no consequence since a woman is supposed to be at the disposal of her husband, only to serve him and give him pleasure, and bear him children; her feelings do not matter. Again I must mention I may be totally misinformed; and open to correction

  8. anu

    We all know of this atrocity and it’s almost hard to believe that it still is practised.

  9. HELLINA ANNE

    That is bad because most of the girls go through pain ,what about if they circumcised they will close network for their husbands
    that too bad please do something to stop it please.

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