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Which States Practice Female Genital Mutilation And Why Is It Not Illegal?

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To many, the term Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) would be spine-chilling and unknown, akin to how it was to me until almost a year ago when I came across a video on a YouTube channel that talked about female circumcision in Sub-Saharan areas. Stupefied enough, I couldn’t sleep much that night. The next day, when I searched regarding its prevalence in India, I find articles that mentioned only some parts of Kerala still practising FGM.

Lately, there was a debate regarding the issue on an Instagram page. I then also had a discussion with a batchmate wherein we stuck at the point: ‘Is it prevalent in India?’ And we all, though unwilling, went through the hair standing topic again. Mind you, it’s a topic for us, but an excruciating trauma for millions. But what is it exactly about? And why are we so unknown to it?

What Is Female Genital Mutilation?

Well, if you know the term, you’d find on the internet many articles, detailed studies, a couple of case profiles, and an Indian organisation working for the issue. But now that you’re here currently, let me mention what FGM is in brief points, along with certain links that will speak of those controversial terms that I may not be able to mention here as a lone writer.

Representational image
  • FGM or Female Circumcision is an unscientific and devious practice in the name of culture. The practise involves cutting, sewing and removing (complete or partial) parts of female genitalia, in order to ensure that the female keeps away from ‘sins of pleasure’, according to some cultures.
  • FGM is of four types, all equally excruciating, and I’d say medieval tortures. All involve severely harm-inducing procedures of basically cutting of a woman of her natural, fundamental, biological features. All four types that involve partial or complete removal of clitoral glans/visible parts of clitoris/narrowing of vaginal opening/incisions respectively have been classified as a human rights violation by the World Health Organisation.
  • The worst part about FGM? It is done on girls as young as 5-7 years of age by luring them with new clothes, chocolates, outings etc.
  • While a study shows a Kozikhode village practising FGM in a hospital (that too secretly until revealed) in most places, it is done by elder women of the community, without hygiene, and obviously without mercy, with mere blades.
  • Needless to say, young sufferers, already left devoid of their own selves, now face the lifetime consequence of what took just a couple of minutes for the perpetrator, who herself was once a victim and is still brainwashed enough to induce this pain to females. The victims, of which some survive with a lifetime of discomfort, experience a loss of sensitivity in the injured area, urinal menstrual and childbirth complexities, as well as those who die on the spot of excessive bleeding, are silenced too, by the ruthless sword of culture and ‘family honour’.

Where Is It Practised?

Extensively practised in Sub-Saharan regions, and the Arab States, this practice is also prevalent and declared illegal in some parts of Europe and Asia, except India, where the cases might be silent and comparatively less, but find no route to its abolition in the law any soon. Within India, there might be districts in Kerala, Maharashtra and a few other close states where the practise continues, and the cries dry behind curtains; while the extensive blood fails to flow the fear and pain to the outside world.

The Legalities

While the UN agencies explain it as a human right violation, there are certain nations such as the UK, USA, Sudan, etc. wherein the practice is a criminal offence, a form of child abuse, and thus, there have been red-handedly caught criminals as well. However, in India, despite the past affirmations of former Ministers of Women and Child Development, there is currently no acknowledgement of the practice, and thereby, no law.

While case profiles and reports of law students and organisations are continuously pushing for laws against the practice, and there have been PILs, especially the one around five years ago by 18 women. As a political science student (Class 12), I saw less scope of any immediate address on the issue. Also, given its secrecy, denial and lack of data in the nation, it is tougher to present the case to the guards of the Constitution. The same reason stands for us being unknown of it. Well, sometimes as an urban teenager, I feel I am privileged enough to be ignorant to certain fundamental pains, anytime, that I wish to shut my eyes off to the World.

Well, coming back, though, there might be chances of provisions from the Penal Code and POCSO being evoked; what actually needs to be done, is:

  • A public voice against the issue. Raise awareness, bring the issue forward and attempt to make it safer for people to discuss FGM and other such practices based on the ideology of ‘female restriction’ in order to protect the ‘family honour’.
  • A cultural influence: It is tough for any individual or organisation to reach the communities being talked about and influence them against centuries of brainwashing (and by centuries, I refer to the fact that evidence of FGM has also been found in Egyptian mummies). Thus, it needs to spread through a chain of awareness on the issue. You impact one, one impacts three, and resultantly, 100s reach out to the perpetrators and victims.

The practice would probably still continue. This article will also remain as just another on the Internet. But if you talk about it today, unabashedly, to at least a few people, and encourage them to do the same, the public outrage some years later may tear the curtains, break the blades, and save the young girls!

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