Supreme Court slams custom of genital mutilation

‘It is violation of a woman’s right to life and dignity’

July 31, 2018 01:39 am | Updated 03:25 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Female genital mutilation has numerous health hazards associated with it and amounts to violation of right to life and dignity of a woman, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra observed on Monday.

The Chief Justice made the oral observation while hearing a PIL (public interest litigation) petition filed by advocate Sunita Tiwari to ban female genital mutilation performed by some communities on children as a religious practice.

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud remarked during the hearing that a woman’s complete control over her genitalia is central to her identity, dignity and autonomy.

The CJI asked how such a practice can be imposed on women. “Why should a lady be expected to make such efforts? Is she chattel?”

Bodily privacy

Senior advocate Indira Jaising submitted that the practice of female genital mutilation cannot be considered as an “essential practice” in religion as it can be brought under the ambit of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

No one can violate the integrity and the bodily privacy of a woman in the name of religion, the Bench observed.

The government has also urged the court to issue directions against the practice.

Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal has submitted that female genital mutilation is punished with seven years’ imprisonment. The international community has condemned this practice.

However, the Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom, represented by senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, has contended that “khafz/female circumcision as practised by the Dawoodi Bohra community is not female genital mutilation.” It is an essential part of their religion and protected under the Constitution.

The court will continue to hear the case on Tuesday.

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