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Petition to End Female Genital Mutilation in India

January 10, 2016

Mubina Jamdar writes:

Please support our petition to End Female Genital Mutilation in India.

Despite clear guidelines from WHO and international outcry to stop the practice, we face a wall of barriers to even propose the idea of banning FGM to the government of India.

In India, FGM is mainly practiced by a small number of communities including mine. It defies logic that despite the fact that this is one of the most educated and prosperous communities in India, the clergy have very tight control over day- to-day decisions of the members.

90% of the members follow the leader blindly. Perhaps 10%, who are progressive, do not dare to speak up against the leaders for fear of being excommunicated and never to see their family and friends again. Based on that, it is no surprise that most of the signatures for the petition to ban the practice are collected so far are from outside the community.

In addition, community leaders have very deep pockets. Given the huge vote bank, they have formed a strong and cosy relationship with the political establishment. They use money and political influence to further control their followers.

Below is an audacious statement from a community spokesperson in 2011, when a separate petition was presented to the community leader at that time:
I have heard about the online campaign but [deleted] women should understand that our religion advocates the procedure and they should follow it without any argument.”
–community spokesperson

The tone of the statement provides an insight into what we are up against.

I believe a joint statement from social activists and prominent international figures will help the Indian government to seriously consider the ban.

It has been argued that to bring widespread change, it’s not enough to make FGM illegal. It needs to be supported by targeted education programs and law enforcement. Without that support, there is a risk that the practice will be driven underground. We can only hope for change in the long run. However, by making FGM illegal it will send a strong message and thus provide an opportunity to talk about what is essentially a taboo subject.

Even now small girls are in immediate danger of being circumcised as pressure from their families mounts.

Petition · End Female Genital Mutilation in India · Change.org

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.

A few months ago, some 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.

We the undersigned women, all of us aware of the harmful traditional practice known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) or ‘Khatna’, belong to the Dawoodi Bohra community which has its major adherents in India.

The practice of FGM is done surreptiously and in a clandestine manner to all the girl children in our community, without any consent whatsoever. The alleged reason for this tradition is to curb the sexual drive of women and control them.

The Dawoodi Bohras are amongst the most educated in India, yet we are also the only Muslim community in India to practice FGM. The practice has nothing to do with religion and is more of a cultural practice.

Most of us are too scared to speak out publicly. We fear ostracization, social boycott and exclusion of our families from the rest of the community by our religious clergy if we object to the continuation of this practice.

FGM has no health benefits, in fact it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies. FGM is often done without anaesthesia, without medical supervision and sometimes the procedure goes horribly wrong.

It often leads to pain, shock, tetanus, genital sores, excessive bleeding, etc. It also has long-lasting psychological impact on the victims, ranging from sexual disorders, fear of sexual intimacy, nightmares and post traumatic stress disorder.

In December 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution on the elimination of FGM. Across the world FGM is being outlawed in many countries. Nigeria and Gambia recently made FGM illegal after women came together, campaigned and raised their voice. FGM is banned in over 20 countries in Africa itself.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies FGM as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. According to WHO, FGM reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.

In Australia, three Dawoodi Bohras were held guilty of FGM recently by the Supreme Court of New Wales, Australia. The case was closely watched by the Dawoodi Bohra community in India.

We urge the Government to pass a law banning this practice in India, such that anyone found involved in aiding, abetting and perpetrating this practice should be punished. Pressure of this law and fear of punishment will be the best way to put a stop to this cruel practice.

I along with my Dawoodi Bohra sisters want to raise our voice against FGM in India and put an end to this. You can support us by signing this petition.

Sign our petition and ask the government of India to act against Female Genital Mutilation!

Masooma Ranalvi, Aarefa Johari, Insia Dariwala, Shabnum Poonawala, Nafisa Pardawala, Farida Ali, Tasneema Ranalvi, Hanan Adarkar, Shaheeda Kirtane, Tanvee Vasudevan, Ummul Ranalvi, Zainub Poonawala, Sana Vaidya, Zehra Patwa, Farzana Doctor, Fiza Jha, Zarine Hashim

On Behalf of SPEAK OUT ON FGM

Twitter accounts concerning FGM in India include  @SpeakOutOnFGM,  @AarfaJohari,  @Sahiyo2016   and  @GargarFound4Dev .

(Please feel free to add your own #NoFGM India Twitter handle as a Comment below, if it’s not listed here.)

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