When I was seven, an older relative took me to a woman I didn’t know. Before I could understand what was happening, they’d removed my underwear, and cut my genitals. I still remember the pain…
I knew then that no one should have to go through the practice known as female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Today, I am a member and organizer of WeSpeakOut, a Bohra group working to end FGM/C in our community and elsewhere in India. We have activists in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, as well as in cities across Australia, Canada and the US. At this time, we are self-funded and have a Facebook group with almost 3,000 supporters.
FGM/C is also known as Khatna/khafz. As described in the Bohra religious texts, it is the removal of the prepuce tissue from the clitoris, which is often termed as “haram ki boti”. Khatna/khafz is still being practiced in the Dawoodi, Sulemani and Alvi Bohra Communities (Shia Muslims) on girls between the ages of five and seven. It is equivalent to Type 1 or Type 4 FGM/C as classified by the World Health Organization.
Did you know that FGM is NOT illegal in India?
In December 2015, we launched a petition on change.org, appealing to the Indian Government to implement law to ban FGM. The petition has since exceeded 100,000 signatures.
On May 29 2017, Maneka Gandhi, Minister of Women and Child Development, made a statement in the Hindustan Times. She declared khatna a criminal practice and promised to issue advisories to the respective state governments and the Syedna, head of the Bohra Community. She further said that if the advisories were not followed, the government would bring in a law to ban the practice.
Six months later, these advisories have still not been issued. On November 19, 2017, World Day for the Prevention of Child Abuse, we launched a Twitter campaign asking PM Modi to make FGM/C illegal in India.
Dear @narendramodi, on this #WorldDayForThePreventionOfChildAbuse we ask you to heed our open letter and take swift action to make #FemaleGenitalMutilation illegal, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. https://t.co/ytx8Lv8P1I #StopFGMinIndia #EndFGM #FGM #khatna Pls RT pic.twitter.com/rwMcAvzln9
— WeSpeakOut (@SpeakoutonFGM) November 19, 2017
— Nandana Sen (@nandanadevsen) November 19, 2017
We received likes and retweets from key influencers including Nandita Das, Tushar Gandhi, Jitesh Pillaai, Nandana Sen, Rita Banerji, Harnidh Kaur, Bhawana Somaaya, Nelufar Hidayat, Act India, Rakshit Tandon, Asra Q Nomani, Tehseen Poonawala, Smilly Sen, Khalid Mohammed, and many more.
Over a 24 hour period, our tweets has 96,000 impressions. But it isn’t over yet. Our campaign is ongoing, and you can help us spread the word. If you are on Twitter, join the conversation @SpeakOutonFGM. Add your voice and tweet about ending the practice, using the hashtags #khatna, #StopFGMinIndia, #EndFGM and #FGM.
Check out our website at www.wespeakout.org for more information and resources. We’d love to hear from you!