Centre’s no-FGM stand angers activists

Masooma Ranalvi (right) releasing a report on FGM with Indira Jaising.

Masooma Ranalvi (right) releasing a report on FGM with Indira Jaising.  

No ‘official data’ on female genital mutilation, Union WCD Ministry tells SC

Mumbai: Anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) activists are upset with the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development’s claim that there is no official data or study that supports the existence of FGM in India.

Women who have been openly criticising the practice of ‘khatna’ — largely followed by the Dawoodi Bohra community — feel the ministry’s response is disturbing and demeaning.

Khatna, as practiced among the Dawoodi Bohras, involves cutting part of the clitoral hood, or prepuce, of girls as young as seven years. While many countries have banned the practice, India doesn’t have a law for this.

On Thursday, media reports said that ministry, in an affidavit recently filed in the Supreme Court in response to a writ petition seeking a ban on FGM, said, “It is respectfully submitted that at present there is no official data or study (by NCRB etc) which supports the existence of FGM in India.”

Masooma Ranalvi, convener of Speak Out On FGM, a group of Dawoodi Bohra women who are victims of khatna, said, “We’ve written so many personal testimonies on the issue and have also spoken to Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi over the past year. Also, many women have written emails to her citing their personal experiences. After all this, the ministry’s response is disappointing.”

In May, Speak Out On FGM and human rights NGO Lawyers Collective, had brought out a report on the practice and the physical and psychological scars it leaves on victims. In February, another organization, Sahiyo, released results of a survey, which showed 98% respondents were subjected to khatna. It said untrained traditional cutters had performed khatna on 74% of the respondents.

In response to the ministry’s stand, an official message on NGO Sahiyo’s social media page said: “We are appalled that @MinistryWCD did not acknowledge the existence of Female Genital Cutting #FGM in India. Survivors have been speaking out and sharing their stories for years, and have met ministry officials too! This submission in the SC comes after meeting with survivors and making claims that State governments would be advised about punitive action against #FGC. Shouldn't the government have initiated a study to gather official data on FGC by now?”

Insia Dariwala, founder member, Sahiyo, said, “Yes, FGM is not practised in India, but Female Genital Cutting (FGC) surely is, Mrs. Maneka Gandhi. If data doesn’t exist, it’s because no one cares enough to collect it. Ironically, at a recent event in Mumbai, many heard two survivors speaking about their experiences.”

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Printable version | May 31, 2020 7:07:05 AM |

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