Dawoodi Bohra women have filed three new intervention applications in the case against female genital mutilation in the Supreme Court. The applications from the five women, however, are yet to be accepted by the apex court.
While the next hearing for the case is now scheduled on July 23, women from both sides — those against the practice of khafz and those in favour — have gained great support from within the community.
The Dawoodi Bohras who believe in khafz ( female circumcision) say it is just a nick on the female foreskin (prepuce) covering the clitoris. Khafz is carried out on girls as young as seven.
The World Health Organisation defines this as Type I-A FGM, which involves removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only. Women who have raised their voice against the practice term it as a child rights and human rights violation. With both sides now in court and Union ministries and several State governments party to the petition, the case is at a crucial stage.
The developments are being closely followed by Dawoodi Bohras across the world, given that FGM is banned in many countries, and a few community members are facing legal charges in Australia and the United States.
Samina Kanchwala, Secretary of Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom (DBWRF) that believes in khafz , said the DBWRF is delighted at the support it has received. “We are very clear that khafz is a practice and a basic religious tenet. There are some people who don’t want to do it and we don’t have a problem with that. However, at least those who want to fulfill every single tenet of our religion should not be denied this,” said Ms. Kanchwala. “People have interchangeably used the two terms, which are not similar at all, in practice. FC is a nick on the prepuce. It is a harmless process. Now, this nick cannot be compared with mutilation.”
Masooma Ranalvi from We Speak Out, a group of survivors fighting to end the practice, said the SC’s observation that “no one can violate the integrity and bodily privacy of a woman in the name of religion,” was a validation for their movement. “We have received congratulatory messages from community members across the country,” she said.
In an innovative campaign started by We Speak Out, women from the community who want to speak out against the practice are being called upon to send voice recordings either on phone or on email.
While the women can remain anonymous, they can mention the State they live in and their age in the recording. We Speak Out has received nearly 15 audio messages from women across the country so far.