This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Dhritiman Kakoty. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Female Genital Mutilation In India: Why Aren’t We Talking About It?

More from Dhritiman Kakoty

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.

You must be to comment.
  1. Porishmita Koushik

    Man this is insanely terrorising. Good write up

  2. Muffi Zainu

    This article is poorly researched. Here are the facts:
    1) Female Circumcision practiced by Muslims around the world does is Type 1a, limited only to the foreskin (just like in the males), not the clitoris. What you’re referring to in your article is Type 3 done very rarely in Africa, and does not concern Muslims
    2) The WHO confirms that all the harms you have mentioned actually refer to Type 3, and not Type 1a as stated above.
    3) Female Circumcision has nothing to do with patriarchy because it’s women who carry out the practice, not men. As for your statement “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”, using that same logic, does that also mean the following if I replace it with male circumcision – since they are both the same procedures? Example: “This practice is actually rooted in the FEMINISM mentality of FEMALE-dominated societies as they attempt to control MEN’S sexuality in the name of purity and modesty”
    4) The dingy rooms are all anecdotal nonsense fed by liars. Female Circumcision is carried out under medical supervision in medical environments. If you had actually left your laptop, traveled and done better research you would have realized this in India, Malaysia, Indonesia & Singapore.
    Conclusion: Do better research.

    1. Nilanjana

      From the WHO website:
      Female genital mutilation is classified into 4 major types.
      Type 1: Often referred to as clitoridectomy, this is the partial or total removal of the clitoris (a small, sensitive and erectile part of the female genitals), and in very rare cases, only the prepuce (the fold of skin surrounding the clitoris).

      Also, is perpetuated by both men and women who subscribe to it’s values. All women are not feminists, just as all men are not men’s right activists.
      Women may carry out the practice, but it is very obviously something they have been conditioned to do for the sake of chastity and purity, which are tools used to control female sexuality.

  3. TAHER cool dude

    A complete false and misunderstands article with false claims. I have been personally asking the @wespeakout group to show evidence of harm but no such thing exist and Bohras don’t slice any part it’s just the small Nick on the clitoris hood . Much minor than the male circumcision so it would be better for the editor and writer to first research a topic before writting or atleast get in touch with the opposing group to get to know the actual reallity . This is shameful for a writter an on the part of journalism as a whole . Such articles are the part of #fakenews and #paidnews

More from Dhritiman Kakoty

Similar Posts

By SAANS leaders

By Yasu Tewari

By Shruti Gupta

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below