What a big chunk of the mainstream media missed, or chose to ignore, was that India may soon join the many countries to ban the Dawoodi Bohra’s tradition of mutilating their women before marriage.
The Supreme Court of India on Monday, 30 July, said the age-old practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) violated the right to privacy of women, adding that women don’t live their lives just for their marriages and husbands.
Female Genital Cutting (FGC) – a term that isn’t very familiar for Indians but should be. When we read about it, we disregard it as the problem of a land far away, that it’s something for Africa to deal with. What we don’t realise is that FGC exists in India too, even in 2016 when women’s rights are spoken about more than ever before.
Hidden away from the eyes of the world, the Dawoodi Bohra community in India practises female circumcision. But women, and men, from the community are now speaking out against this practice, known as khatna in India.
The Centre supported a petition, in the apex court, seeking a ban on the practice among the members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, a sub-sect of the Shia denomination.
“A woman may have several other obligations too,” the court said.
A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said subjugation of women to their husbands won’t pass the test of constitutionality.
The Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, said that “women do not live only for marriage and their husbands” and have several other obligations beyond marriage, and also that “subjugation to a husband will not pass the test of constitutionality.”
Addressing the court on behalf of the Centre, Attorney General KK Venugopal stated that the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and 27 African countries had banned this inhumane practice. He also argued that while male circumcision has some potential health benefits, including reducing the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, the same couldn’t be said for women.
Senior Advocate AM Singhvi had, during an earlier hearing, demanded the matter be referred to a constitutional bench, for it involved the issue of an essential practice in the religion. He had also said that the FGM was a customary practice and therefore the court shouldn’t intervene in the area.
Attorney General of India, KK Venugopal, said the Centre supported the ban, adding that the practice violates the fundamental rights of women, CNN-News18 reported.
Venugopal added that the practice was barbaric and caused trauma among young women, urging the apex court to ban it.
Male and female circumcision (called khatna and khafz respectively) are religious rites that have been practiced by Dawoodi Bohras throughout history. Religious books, written over a thousand years ago, specify the requirements for both males and females as acts of religious purity.