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Female Genital Mutilation: A Comprehensive Analysis

Female genital mutilation (FGM) refers to all procedures relating to partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to female genital organs for non-medical reasons[i]. FGM is mostly carried out on young girls between the ages nine to fifteen and carries a lot of risk of potential health hazards.

Not only about health hazards, it is extremely painful and agonising since there is no proper medical equipment or practitioners present to perform such treatment. This blog will focus on FGM practices in India and make a critical analysis on the laws present in the country.

FGM Practices In India

FGM is practised in several areas in the deccan region like parts of Mumbai and several communities bordering around Kerala. Originally practised in deep underdeveloped and tribal inhabited parts of Africa, it wasn't long before the "Suleiman Bohra" and "Dawoodi Bohra" communities began to adopt such practises. Khatna, as it called by the Bohras is a very private practise and a matter of deep taboo, often carried by midwives, untrained and unprofessional according to modern, safer medical standards.[ii]

So, what exactly is FGM ? as the proper definition goes it is partial or complete removal of external genital organs in a female but FGM practises in India is very much of an elaborate process. It focuses mainly on cutting of the clitoris of the female at tender age of six or nine years old to "control" a women's sexual pleasure. The vagina area is then sewed with a thin iron wire without any proper medical procedure and is extremely painful.

Only a small opening is left for period impurities and urine to pass and the rest of the vagina is sewed shut in order to prevent her from having sexual intercourse outside wedlock and to remain a virgin till marriage. When the girl is married off at the age of 16 or 17, the husband, during the first night after the wedding, cuts out the wire then and there and performs sexual intercourse. During this entire time there is no medical equipment, it's just agonising pain and a lot of health complications [iii]. Let us look at the personal experience of Masooma, a victim to this crude practise currently fighting the battle against FGM through activism and filing petitions �

"My mum told me come; I'll take you out and buy you chocolates. I happily went with her. She took me to Bohri mohalla (in Mumbai), a cluster where 90% Bohras live. We went into this dark decrepit building. I remember being taken into a room. The curtains were drawn. She said lie down. Like an obedient child, I lay.

My grandmother was holding my hands. An oldish woman pulled down my pants� I started crying. Grandmom said don't worry, it will be over in a jiffy. I shrieked in pain� I experienced a sharp, shooting pain and she put some black powder there� I came home and cried and cried and cried..."

FGM is a gruesome practise and intention to perform roots to redundant and severely patriarchal philosophy and thinking of the Islamic society which is also false and is based on the extreme radical thinking of human society. Linking it with god and the holy "sins" to validate this practise is both disgusting and unbelievable. What is even more shocking is that FGM as a practise, is actually carried by women to perform on other women.

This goes on to further prove that patriarchy runs so deep within communities that even women believe themselves to be inferior and to be controlled. This innate desire to validate a man's superiority is fuelled by women themselves and the causes can be ample. Either these women believe in this practise and give up their choice to think, or they are brainwashed into believing this is real. Whatever may be the cause, FGM practise is very successful in India with more than 80% of women in Bohra communities being victims to this practise. The question now arises, where is the law in all this ? what does the Indian law say? What is the remedy?

FGM Prevention Laws In India: Scope And Limitations

No matter how gruesome, agonising, painful and mentally scarring FGM is, the Indian law, as of now does not recognise Female Genital Mutilation as an offence. Any complaints whatsoever and being registered against such practises is done under section 326 of the Indian Penal Code (Causing grievous hurt). This is the reality of the situation we are in. a crime so ghastly wrong and so terrifying is not penalised by the Indian law and the only way to fight against this crime is to find loopholes around IPC to figure out a suitable punishment.

We cannot blame the law in its entirety as well. Law cannot be studied without society. Law is formed by societal norms and society is regulated through law. The reason there is no law around FGM is because of high sensitivity. FGM, as discussed before is a very private and a taboo subject, there is no way to prove the guilt of perpetrators because of no witnesses. Why is it a taboo? Why no witnesses come forward?

Because of society. The society of the Bohras is so deeply intertwined that it cannot be broken or even loosen by law. Getting out of the society of Bohras is very much difficult and implementing law to their sense of "unity" is even more difficult.

Law cannot be made if there is no way to prove the existence of that crime, that the law is trying to prevent. The only way to implement effective laws against FGM is to focus on ways to dismantle the rigid society of the Bohras. Activism and awareness goes a long way in doing this. Spreading the knowledge of FGM would make everyone vigilant about such a heinous crime. Many females who are victims of FGM go along with this practise because they see it as a "tradition" and endure the abuse to uphold "dignity of the culture".

As long as there is protest, as long as there is activism against FGM, there is voice against this crime and there is awareness. To change the society, to change the mindset, one must protest against it and not go with the flow but instead focus on to question the tradition or practice or any norm of society. By the same logic, as long as people question validity of practises and culture "normalised" by society, such crimes will slowly fade out.

We cannot do anything to the victims of FGM sadly. The damage done to them is irreversible. What we can do now is to help them voice their protest against FGM and save the future young girls from being prey to this crime. FGM is a heinous crime, which leaves only a broken victim in a carefree society.


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