UN urged to end FGM by 2030

A coalition of 29 organisations from India and abroad have petitioned to the United Nations to end female genital mutilation (FGM) by 2030.

The petitioners called upon the global community to contribute funds, support and resources to facilitate research, data collection and advocacy in countries where FGM is practised.

The co-signers to the petition, which was released on Tuesday, include Mumbai-based Sahiyo, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Orchid Project, Equality Now, Men Against Violence and Abuse, No FGM Australia, Hawa Trust and Speak Out on FGM.

200 million victims

The petition states that at least 200 million women in 30 countries have been subjected to FGM. However, these statistics are largely restricted to sub-Saharan Africa and ignore the global scope of the issue. The petition states, “In 2016, a UNICEF report finally included Indonesia as a country where FGM is practised. But FG has also been reported in India, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Maldives, Brunei, Russia (Dagestan) and Bangladesh. These Asian countries fall outside the scope of the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme to Accelerate the Abandonment of FGM. As a result, FGM survivors from this region are overlooked when it comes to resources, data collection efforts, advocacy and support.”

‘Violation of child rights’

In India, FGM is common among the Dawoodi Bohra community, a sub-sect of Shia Muslims. The practice is known as khatna or khafz within the community. Anti-khatna activists say the practice violates human rights and child rights as victims are aged 14 years and below.

However, community members who believe in the practice say it should be rightly described as ‘Islamic Female Circumcision’. They claim that like male circumcision, female circumcision is a practice that Muslims have been asked to follow with varying degrees of strictness. The Shafi’i Sunni branch (found mainly in Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and Kurdistan) practise FGM universally.

‘Lack of awareness’

Harish Sadani, co-founder of Men Against Violence and Abuse, said, “But the reality in our country is such that people have no knowledge about FGM being practiced here. It is also hard to believe that it is practiced in the Dawoodi Bohra community, which is otherwise extremely progressive. Considering these aspects, I felt the need to support the cause.”

The UN has prioritised the elimination of FGM as part of its goal of achieving gender equality, which is one of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): a 15-year plan to help guide global development and funding in the “areas of critical importance for humanity and the planet”.

Members of Sahiyo, a non-profit forum that aims to end to FGM among the Dawoodi Bohras and other Asian communities, said, “But how can this particular SDG be met by 2030 if no resources are devoted to understanding the nature and prevalence of FGM among Asian communities and the diaspora migrating from these countries to different parts of the world? How can we advance gender equality if we do not include every country where FGM is reported?”

Overwhelming opposition

In 2015, Sahiyo conducted a small-scale study to understand the extent of FGM in the Dawoodi Bohra community. The study found that 80 per cent of the community’s women had been victims of FGM. The study also revealed that 81 per cent of the respondents wanted an end to the practice in the community.

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Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 5:27:31 PM |

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