It’s 2021, you’re wearing your favourite pink frock to school today. At noon, your mother picks you up from school for she has planned a surprise to get you truckloads of colourful candies. You’re chuffed to get your favourite candy from store. However, midway your mother diverges from the original candy plan and takes you to a dark rickety building where you find a woman pinning you down to the floor and taking your pants off. You’re sweating and you’re uncomfortable but mom says “Don’t worry, it’s going to be okay”. You try to believe her but you catch sight of a blade making its way to your vagina. You don’t know what’s happening but you sure know, it’s not right. Shrieking, wailing and weeping, nothing helps and within a fraction of minutes you’re covered in blood. With the snap of a finger, a part of your body, clitoris, has been removed permanently.
Yes, you read it right. This is what a significant number of girls are subjected to, in their formative years. And if you thought this barbaric act happens in a far off secluded shanty town in Africa or Middle-East, then you should know that Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are home to some communities that practice the hostile act. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) comprises all procedures that involve altering or injuring a female genitalia for non medical reasons. FGM is practised by the Dawoodi Bohra, a sect of Shia Islam with one million members in India. Known as khatna, the procedure is performed on six- or seven-year-old girls and involves the total or partial removal of the clitoral hood. The reasons underlying female genital mutilation are rather paradoxical. On one hand, FGM forms an intrinsic part of a community’s cultural heritage and religion, whereby FGM is seen as a tool to mitigate and control women’s sexual desires besides marking a girl’s initiation into womanhood. On the flip side, the same people who claim to propagate the regressive narrative in name of religious edicts are interfering with the creator’s plan. If there was a reason to believe in the futility of a clitoris, wouldn’t women be born without one? This goes to show how a section of the population is getting in god’s way when it wasn’t the intention they begun with. As a matter of fact, the practice of FGM which encourages cutting off a part of the vagina is said to have been originated as a saying in the pages of Quran.
However, Ziya Us Salam in her book ‘Till Talaq Do Us Part’, states “In most Islamic households the child goes to the local mosque, but all he hears is a sermon in Arabic. He understands it not. He sits there out of reverence. Occasionally, when there is a Hadith recited in a little chat after prayers, no reference is made to its book, is it even authentic?”. Thomas Foundation Reuters quotes, “The Quran makes absolutely no mention about FGM and the few statements falsely attributed to Prophet Muhammad supposedly okaying FGM were declared unreliable centuries ago.” To put this into context, 90% of the people supporting FGM on the pretext of being a holy verse cannot attest to its authenticity. It stands to reason, something so sinful can never find its origin in a scripture. Despite taking cognisance of the matter, this wheel of ignorance is rolling on. Most likely, another factor is at play here. A female’s personal space is infringed upon to ensure the presence of “loyalty” that would tie a husband and a wife for a lifetime. In other words, FGM is motivated by beliefs about what is considered acceptable sexual behaviour. Clitoris is the organ that’s responsible for sexual gratification in women and no clitoris means no unwanted sexual desires that result in infidelity or premarital loss of virginity. Study after study shows that men’s sex drives are much stronger than women’s. Men think more about sex, men seek sex more avidly, yet a woman’s clitoris needs to be cut for a happily ever after? Even in the 21st century India, patriarchal mindsets are subjugating women to a status where they’re treated as a mere object, with the sole purpose of satisfying their husbands. Surprisingly, for their male counterparts, castration is considered too hard a punishment for rape, no matter how heinous the crime is. Castration is considered violative of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, “Right to Life”. Be that as it may, women circumcision hasn’t been criminalised by the Indian Penal Code. Women who have been cut sometimes contract HIV, endure infections leading to infertility and find sexual intercourse excruciating. Not to mention the psychological ramifications in the form of mental trauma, flashbacks and self harm strip them of happiness and warmth. If this isn’t a violation of Human Rights and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, “Right to Life”, then what is? According to WHO, more than 200 million girls and women faced genital mutilation in 30 countries including Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. To help people undergo a metamorphosis for the abolishment of the practice, The International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM is celebrated as a day of international observation. This day is a part of a combined effort by the UN to meet one of its Sustainable Development Goals, the elimination of FGM, it being a violation of Human Rights of girls and women. The theme for 2020: Unleashing Youth Power aims at eradicating the practice that is rooted in superstition, religion and the subjugation of women. February 6, 2021, is the day we, whoever we are, start a dialogue helping people realise that merely because a practice has continued for long, that in itself cannot make it valid. FGM is a crime, a crime against humanity. And we have to stop it.
– Janvi Gupta
Picture Credits: e-ir.info / ONUSCO Photos / Flickr