My thoughts mirror the introduction of this piece published in India Today, “They promise you a chocolate, a movie or just an outing; they take you instead to dingy, dark room, pin you to a bed, take off your pants and cut that tiny part of you that was eventually supposed to make you experience one of the greatest pleasures of being a woman. With blades, knives or anything remotely sharp or long, thy cut off your clitoris, and say it’s in the name of culture; all this when you are a young girl of seven, or eight, or nine.”
As a man, I should not have the audacity to claim that I understand the torment of the women who face this, but that does not mean I will decline its existence in this awful patriarchal country of ours. Alas, that is exactly what the people in power are doing.
But first, what exactly is Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)? On Wikipedia, it is described as, “Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies FGM as a violation of the human rights of girls and women and to be specific, it is almost always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. UNICEF estimated that in 2016, 200 million women living in 30 countries- 27 African countries, Indonesia, Iraqi Kurdistan and Yemen- had undergone this procedure.
This procedure differs from culture to culture and from one ethnic group to another, but they all mostly include removal of the clitoral hood and clitoral glans, removal of the inner and outer labia and closure of the vulva. The vagina is used for intercourse and childbirth.
This practice is actually rooted in the patriarchal mentality of male-dominated societies as they attempt to control women sexuality in the name of purity and modesty.
But the cruel practice of female genital mutilation is not only practiced in the tribal societies of African Countries but young girls aged six and seven are regularly being cut right here, in India. The Bohra community, a Shia sub sect’s young girls are regularly being sliced by untrained midwives.
FGM or Khatna as it is called by Bohras was a well-kept secret which wasn’t discussed and considered a taboo subject until a petition was brought out by 17 women who stated that they were subjected to Khatna, “there are thousands of my Dawoodi Bohra sisters who have been subjected to genital cutting as children and even today thousands of Bohra girls are being subjected to this practice, since it has been ordained by the clergy of our community.”
In the petition, they further stated, “It often leads to pain, shock, tetanus, genital sores, excessive bleeding etc. It also has a long-lasting psychological impact on the victims, ranging from sexual disorders, fear of sexual intimacy and nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder.”
According to the petition, “a few months ago, women like me (indicating to 17 women who wrote the petition) those got together under the forum – ‘Speak out on FGM’ – to begin a conversation on this extremely secretive ritual which has caused physical and psychological damage to each of us in some way or the other.”
But the government of India with those glossy ads of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ is not taking any visible action against this brutal practice.
Though Maneka Gandhi, the Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women and Child Development, came out in the press after a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking ban on FGM, surprisingly the government told the Supreme court in December 2017 that they do not have any “official data” to prove the existence of FGM in India.
When many countries are banning it, and with the leadership of UN bodies, the world is waking up against this barbaric ritual, the Indian government is still hiding away from this topic and denying that it exists altogether.
What can we do now? As a man, I can, first of all, ask for forgiveness from women for being part of a society which chooses to scar them in such a horrific manner.
We can start a conversation about it. A meaningful conversation that’ll make the government see that it is still a brutal reality for many young girls who have to face its ramifications all their lives.
To sum it all up, I just want to give you a scenario to remember if you ever think that this is not that big of an issue.
Imagine being taken to a room in a dark decrepit building; imagine being pinned down on the floor; imagine your underwear being taken off; imagine seeing a knife being heated on the gas stove; imagine the same hot knife slicing your clitoris; Imagine young girls from Bohra community in India and many girls worldwide shrieking in pain.
If you have a beating heart you will get goosebumps in sheer terror and concern. Keep that terror alive and let’s all strive to eradicate this barbaric practice once and for all.