Bohra Women Speak Out Against FGM

Posted by Aman Verma on Friday, 22 January 2016 0

Female genital mutilation has long been recognized as a violation of human rights. International human rights organizations such as the UN and Unicef along with the World Health Organization and Forward have been vocal in denouncing the cruel practice. While widespread cases have been reported in Africa, though, it’s always been a well-kept secret in countries like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and India. It’s also practiced in many parts of Indonesia. 
India’s small Muslim community, Bohras, continues the practice up to this day.

The Bohras

The Bohras are part of a Shia sect that originated from Yemen and settled in the country around the 16th century. Today, Bohra populations are found mostly in Maharashtra and Gujarat. And cases of FGM abuse in these regions continue. Population-wise, the Bohras are about a million, with the Dawoodi Bohras holding the distinction for being one of the most educated in the country. However, their continued practice of FGM puts the sect under the scrutiny of various human rights groups. And after years of suffering in silence or anonymous protests, Bohra women are finally fighting back, reports Divya Bhaskar on Gujarati news live.

Changing the Future

Masoma Ranalvi recounts the trauma of being subjected to female genital mutilation at the age of seven. Along with other Bohra women, she launched a Change.Org petition to ask the government to put an end to the inhumane practice. Ranalvi argues that the thought that women shouldn’t enjoy sex or that ensuring women don’t enjoy sex to make sure she doesn’t stray is an idea that smacks of patriarchal bigotry. In 2012, the UN General Assembly already submitted a resolution to put an end to FGM across the world. That resolution was key in influencing many countries to ban the practice. 
But no such law exists in India and the Bohras still subject their children and women to the practice, locally known as khatna or female circumcision. That is, until’s petition last month. The organization seeks to change the law in order to have the practice banned for good. 
Some believe that FGM exists because no one ever questions it. Well, the group’s message is loud and clear: they want it to stop and they want it to stop now.

The Harmful Effects

FGM leads to a host of harmful effects. There’s the psychological damage and trauma from the experience. More pressing and alarming, though, is the risk and possibility of sexual damage. Since the practice is often done by people who have no clinical or medical training, life-threatening complications can arise. Accounts of women bleeding to death after being subjected to FGM or developing sexual diseases run rampant. Given the harm inflicts, it’s no surprise that the Change.Org’s petition has been met with no less than 1,800 endorsements in less than 2 days, since it was released on Tuesday. The letter holds the signatures of 16 women, all members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, who underwent the practice as children. It marks the first time women have openly signed a petition. In the past, the community has been tightly close-lipped about the practice. The petition will go a long way in ensuring the practice is talked about and debated, and eventually, terminated. 

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