India and Pakistan

Country: India and Pakistan

Population of the Dawoodi Bohra ethnic group:[1]

1.1 million (India), 100,000 (Pakistan)

                      map

Major Languages:[2]

India:  Hindi, Bengali, Telugu

Pakistan: Punjabi, Sindhi, Saraiki

Major religions: Sub-sect of Shia Islam

 

Estimated FGC prevalence among Bohra women aged 15-49:

Unknown

Sahiyo, an organisation empowering Dawoodi Bohra to end FGC, conducted an online survey amongst the community globally. Preliminary results indicate that 80% of the women who took the survey had undergone FGC.[3]

Other groups practising FGC are groups with African or Arab origins, such as the ethnic Sheedi community which numbers several thousand and is based primarily in Sindh, Pakistan.[4] There has been little research on the practice among these groups.

Type(s) practised:

The most widely practised form is Type I, called khatna by the Bohra community. It involves the removal of the clitoris hood or the clitoris, as it is considered a haraam ki boti, or immoral lump of flesh.

Legal status:

There is no law banning FGC in India[5] or Pakistan.

 


[1] ‘India’ (Stop FGM Middle East) <http://www.stopfgmmideast.org/countries/india/> accessed 1 December 2016; ‘Pakistan’ (Stop FGM Middle East) <http://www.stopfgmmideast.org/pakistan/> accessed 1 December 2016

[2] ‘India’ (The World Factbook, CIA) <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html> accessed 2 December 2016; ‘Pakistan’ (The World Factbook, CIA) <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pk.html> accessed 2 December 2016

[3] Sahiyo, An Exploratory Study on the Practice of Khatna (FGC) among the Dawoodi Bohra Community <https://sahiyo.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/khatnaflyer_final_withbox_11-24-16.pdf> accessed 2 December 2016

[4] ‘Low awareness of hidden FGM/C practices’ (Irin, 26 December 2011) <http://www.irinnews.org/feature/2011/12/26/low-awareness-hidden-fgmc-practices> accessed 2 December 2016

[5] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, INDIA 2015 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT (Washington: U.S. Department of State 2015) <http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2015&dlid=252963#wrapper> accessed 2 December 2016

History of FGC among the Bohra:[1]

The Bohra is a small community based mainly in west India. They are a Shia Muslim sect originating from Yemen, which settled in India in the 16th century, and spread to the Sindh region of Pakistan during independence from British India and from the British rule in 1947. The most common explanation for the Dawoodi practising FGC refers to the waves of migration of members of the sect through Africa. On the other hand, the practice is quite common in Yemen and it is believed that it was brought from there centuries ago.

In India, FGC was usually performed with a razor, and the cutters often used abeer or kapurkanchi powder mixed with silk thread ashes to put over the clitoris afterwards for its cooling effect and for its adhesive value. In Pakistan, traditionally, the cutting was performed at a very young age by midwifes using a nail clip or a razor.

Religion is often given as the main reason why people practise FGC in India and Pakistan. Bohri priests brought FGC to India and there is a belief that it is an Islamic obligatory practice, despite cutting not being mentioned in the Qu’ran. Non-Bohra women have been known to undertake FGC if they wish to have a Muslim marriage ceremony to their Bohra husband. Another reason for practising FGC is to control female sexuality.

FGC in both India and Pakistan has been a well-kept secret.

 


[1] ‘India’ (Stop FGM Middle East) <http://www.stopfgmmideast.org/countries/india/> accessed 1 December 2016; ‘Pakistan’ (Stop FGM Middle East) <http://www.stopfgmmideast.org/pakistan/> accessed 1 December 2016

Current efforts to abandon FGC:

In 2011, a petition broke the silence concerning FGC within the Dawoodi Bohra community in India.[1] Tasleem, an FGC activist, launched a Facebook and Change.org campaign to collect signatures, petitioning the Bohra High Priest His Holiness Dr Syedna Mohammad Burhanuddin to order a ban on this ritual and stop this practice for Bohra women and girls.[2] Today, Tasleem’s petition has received more than 80,000 signatures sparking much debate.[3]

On December 4, 2015, the media reported that a group of Dawoodi Bohra women had started another petition on social networking sites calling for a government ban on the practice.[4] In less than 48 hours it received 1,800 endorsements.[5] By February 2016, it had received close to 40,000 signatures.[6]

In 2015, five women co-founded Sahiyo, a non-profit organisation, to address FGC within the Dawoodi Bohra community. Sahiyo is the Bohra Gujarati word for Saheliyo, meaning friends; the name reflects the organisation’s mission to engage in dialogue with the community to find a collective solution towards ending khatna. Since it started its public activity, Sahiyo has launched several campaigns which have raised a public dialogue on khatna among the Bohras.[7] In February 2016, Sahiyo, along with Speak Out FGM, started the ‘Each One Reach One’ campaign in which one woman reaches another one talking openly about khatna and her experience undergoing it. The campaign gained success inspiring many women worldwide to share their experiences of khatna. In March, they promoted the ‘I Am Bohra’ Photo Campaign where Bohra members were invited to post on social networks and media their photo with a placard telling the world why they would like the community to stop practicing khatna. The campaign gave their initiative more momentum, but also received a lot of criticism.[8]

Earlier, in 2012, Priya Goswami, a Sahiyo co-founder, was awarded the National Film Award for her documentary A pinch of skin that delved into the topic of FGC in India.

Asghar Ali Engineer (1939- 2013), a Bohra Muslim writer and activist, fought also for reform.[9] He wrote over 40 books which proposed changes, many about the status of women. He was the founder of a reforming group called the ‘Progressive Dawoodi Bohras’ who seek reform within the Bohra community. Despite several assaults on him his work was undeterred. On the issue of FGC he stated that ‘since female circumcision interferes with women’s sexual pleasure (…) it has become a human rights issue today.’[10]

Ongoing challenges:

Today, more and more Bohras are speaking out against the practice, in the media, in blogs, on social media and, most importantly, among their friends and families.[11] However, the practice is still very much entrenched in cultural notions of femininity and what it means to be a good, marriageable girl. Most Bohra men know very little or nothing about this practice.[12] In many cases it is only after marriage that men find out. The practice is hidden, hardly ever spoken of and is barely known about.[13] Another current challenge is the medicalisation of the practice. More specifically, in Pakistan, according to Dr Zahra ALI, certified doctors and health practitioners carry out the procedure as a ‘symbolic’ one, a practice which should be questioned.[14] In big cities in India, according to Asghar Ali Engineer, FGC is performed in hospitals right after birth.[15] On the topic of the criminalisation of the practice as a positive step against FGC, activists are not optimistic about passing a law, suggesting that more awareness-raising within the community is needed.[16]

 


[1] ‘India’ (Stop FGM Middle East) <http://www.stopfgmmideast.org/countries/india/> accessed 1 December 2016; ‘Pakistan’ (Stop FGM Middle East) <http://www.stopfgmmideast.org/pakistan/> accessed 1 December 2016

[2] Valentina A. Mmaka, ‘Khatna: FGM in the global Dawoodi Bohra community’ (Pambazuka News, 7 April 2016) <http://www.pambazuka.org/gender-minorities/khatna-fgm-global-dawoodi-bohra-community> 2 December 2016

[3] ‘End Female Genital Mutilation in India’ (Change.org) <https://www.change.org/p/end-female-genital-mutilation-in-india> 2 December 2016

[4] Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, INDIA 2015 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT (Washington: U.S. Department of State 2015) <http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2015&dlid=252963#wrapper> accessed 2 December 2016

[5] ‘Petition against female genital mutilation in India gets nearly 2,000 signatures in 48 hours’ (Scroll.in, 3 December 2015) <http://scroll.in/article/773107/petition-against-female-genital-mutilation-in-india-gets-nearly-2000-signatures-in-48-hours>2 December 2016

[6] Mariya Taher, ‘The Secret is Out: Banning Female Genital Cutting in India’ (Brown Girl Magazine, 8 January 2016) < http://www.browngirlmagazine.com/2016/01/the-secret-is-out-banning-female-genital-cutting-in-india/> accessed 2 December 2016

[7] Pambazuka News (n 2)

[8] Avinash Nandakumar, ‘Woman’s group launch campaign against practice of female genital mutilation of Khatna in India’ (India Live Today, 1 December 2016) <http://www.indialivetoday.com/womans-group-launch-campaign-practice-female-genital-mutilation-khatna-india/68592.html> 1 December 2016

[9] ‘Dr Asghar Ali Engineer’ (Centre for Study of Society and Secularism) <http://www.csss-isla.com/dr-asghar-ali-engineer/ > 2 December 2016

[10]Asghar Ali Engineer, ‘Islam and Female Circumcision’ (Thought & Action) < http://www.thoughtnaction.co.in/islam-and-female-circumcision/> 2 December 2016

[11] India Live Today (n 8); Pambazuka News (n 2)

[12] Stop FGM Middle East (n 1)

[13] ibid

[14] ibid

[15] ibid

[16] ibid

Level of awareness on FGC among Bohra women[1]

table-1

 

Other statistical data:[2]

 table-2


[1] In this survey, designed and delivered by Sahiyo, 385 Bohra women from around the world participated.

[2] ibid

Reference list:

Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, INDIA 2015 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT (Washington: U.S. Department of State 2015 <http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/index.htm?year=2015&dlid=252963#wrapper> accessed 2 December 2016

‘Dr Asghar Ali Engineer’ (Centre for Study of Society and Secularism) <http://www.csss-isla.com/dr-asghar-ali-engineer/ > 2 December 2016

Engineer A, ‘Islam and Female Circumcision’ (Thought & Action) < http://www.thoughtnaction.co.in/islam-and-female-circumcision/>2 December 2016

‘End Female Genital Mutilation in India’ (Change.org) <https://www.change.org/p/end-female-genital-mutilation-in-india> 2 December 2016

‘India’ (Stop FGM Middle East) <http://www.stopfgmmideast.org/countries/india/> accessed 1 December 2016

‘India’ (The World Factbook, CIA)<https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html> accessed 2 December 2016

‘Low awareness of hidden FGM/C practices’ (Irin, 26 December 2011) <http://www.irinnews.org/feature/2011/12/26/low-awareness-hidden-fgmc-practices> accessed 2 December 2016

Mmaka V, ‘Khatna: FGM in the global Dawoodi Bohra community’ (Pambazuka News, 7 April 2016) <http://www.pambazuka.org/gender-minorities/khatna-fgm-global-dawoodi-bohra-community> 2 December 2016

Nandakumar A, ‘Woman’s group launch campaign against practice of female genital mutilation of Khatna in India’ (India Live Today, 1 December 2016) <http://www.indialivetoday.com/womans-group-launch-campaign-practice-female-genital-mutilation-khatna-india/68592.html> 1 December 2016

‘Pakistan’ (Stop FGM Middle East) <http://www.stopfgmmideast.org/pakistan/> accessed 1 December 2016

‘Pakistan’ (The World Factbook, CIA) <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/pk.html> accessed 2 December 2016

‘Petition against female genital mutilation in India gets nearly 2,000 signatures in 48 hours’ (Scroll.in, 3 December 2015) <http://scroll.in/article/773107/petition-against-female-genital-mutilation-in-india-gets-nearly-2000-signatures-in-48-hours> 2 December 2016

Sahiyo, An Exploratory Study on the Practice of Khatna (FGC) among the Dawoodi Bohra Community <https://sahiyo.files.wordpress.com/2016/05/khatnaflyer_final_withbox_11-24-16.pdf> accessed 2 December 2016

Taher M, ‘The Secret is Out: Banning Female Genital Cutting in India’ (Brown Girl Magazine, 8 January 2016) < http://www.browngirlmagazine.com/2016/01/the-secret-is-out-banning-female-genital-cutting-in-india/> accessed 2 December 2016

In the news:

India

Deccan Chronicle - Gynaecologists perform FGC in Hyderabad

The News Minute - Dawoodi Bohra women speak out on FGC

The Wire - Dawoodi Bohra sect leader condemns FGC

Reuters - India women's commission chief backs a campaign to outlaw FGC, the first official support for the banning of the practice in the country.

The Hindu - Survey shows that 81% of the respondents want the practice of FGC to be discontinued

The Better India - Interview with Shaheeda Tavawalla Kirtane, one of the co-founders of Sahiyo, about the organisation's work

The Hindu - Bohra women petition UN regarding FGC practice

DNA - I oppose khatna because...

Hindustan Times - The group leading the campaign to end the practice of FGC want to ensure the term 'Female Genital Cutting' (FGC) is used rather than mutilation.

Mid Day - Sahiyo founders met at SoBo's press club to discuss the gathering strength of the anti-FGC movement in the media

The Daily Mail - Debate within Bohra community over the practice of FGC

The Hans India - The International STEM Society for Human Rights (ISSHR) announce the three-day H.E.R (Humanity Education & Rights) India Conference discussing GBV and FGC

The Wire - Resistance against FGC in India growing

The Quint - Bohra leader asks that FGC be continued in countries where the practice is not yet illegal

Times of India - Rival Syedna condemns female genital cutting calling it 'an un-Islamic and horrific practice'

South China Morning Post - Spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community urges followers to continue practicing FGC

New Security Beat - Culture and rights: the struggle from within to end FGC

Bangalore Mirror - The cruelest cut: Female genital cutting

Youth Ki Awaaz: Mouthpiece for the Youth - Ending violence towards women has come a long way, but the answer is in baby steps: using awareness campaigns and remembrance days

Reuters - Men join the campaigns against FGC rituals that plague the Bohra community

DNA - Progressive leaders in India must speak out against FGC

Marie Claire - Powerful video about one women's experience with FGC in India

Nyoooz - Online campaign to end FGC gains traction on International Women's Day

The Hindu - Online plea campaign launched to protect girls from undergoing FGC

Times Of India - Five inspiring women responsible for India's biggest campaigns on change

NYOOOZ - Women to hold march on International Women's Day demanding parity in all places of worship

DNA - Bohra women working tirelessly to finally end FGC for all future generations

Hindustan Times - Existing laws can be used to fight FGC in India

Hindustan Times - No response from powerful clergy members after online petition by Bohra women gained popularity

Hindustan Times - Why the scope of FGC in India has been secretly downplayed and what needs to change to end FGC for good

Daily Bhaskar - The realities about the secret practice of FGC has been shocking to the public

The Asian Age - One woman's continuous fight to help bring an end to FGC in India

GN - Dawoodi women finally speaking out against FGC

MSN - Progressive Islamic community still subjects women and girls to FGC

Independent - Pressure grows on the Indian government to make FGC illegal

The Citizen - Online campaigns to end FGC

BBC - Bohra women start a campaign to end FGC in India

NDTV - 'I was circumcised when I was a girl of 7'

Tehelka – Who's afraid of female orgasm?

Imagining Equality- FGC: A continuing tradition

DNA - A Pinch of Skin: A documentary that attempts to lift the silence on FGC

 

Pakistan

DAWN - Pakistan determined to empower women and achieve gender equality goals in-line with the SDGs, according to Parkistani ambassador to the UN

The Times of India - Former minister to initiate drive against female khatna in India and Pakistan

The Express Tribune – Female genital cutting: Many Pakistani women’s painful secret

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