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Female Genital Mutilation

The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is observed on the 6th of February annually.  According to WHO statistics, over 200 million females alive today have suffered FGM in over 30 countries across the world.

Female Genital Mutilation

Internationally recognized as a violation of human rights and the health and integrity of girls and women, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) refers to and comprises procedures involving the purposeful or malicious alteration or injury to the female genitalia for non-medical or cultural reasons. Geographically speaking, most victims of FGM are from sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab States, but it is also found to be practiced in some countries in Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), while the exact origins of the practice remain unclear, it seems to have predated Christianity and Islam, with evidence of some Egyptian mummies displaying characteristics of FGM.

Why is Female Genital Mutilation practiced

Depending on the region, there can be various reasons why FGM is performed. The UNFPA has categorized the reasons into five categories —

  • Psycho-sexual reasons (when FGM is carried out as a way to control women’s sexuality, which is sometimes said to be insatiable if parts of the genitalia, especially the clitoris, are not removed);
  • Sociological or cultural reasons (when FGM is seen as part of a girl’s initiation into womanhood and an intrinsic part of a community’s cultural heritage);
  • Hygiene and aesthetic reasons (this may be the reason for those communities that consider the external female genitalia as ugly and dirty);
  • Religious reasons (the UNFPA maintains that while FGM is not endorsed by Christianity or Islam, “supposed” religious doctrines may be used to justify the practice);
  • Socio-economic factors (in some communities FGM is a pre-requisite for marriage, especially in those communities where women are dependent on men economically).
  • Other reasons cited by the WHO include- an attempt to ensure women’s premarital virginity since FGM is believed to reduce libido, and therefore believed to help her resist extramarital sexual acts.
  • FGM may also be associated with cultural ideals of feminity and modesty.

FGM in India

In 2018, a study on FGM in India said that the practice was up to 75 percent across the Bohra Muslim community, and in accordance with the same study, the reasons for FGM referred to as “Khafd” in India include continuing an old traditional practice, adhering to religious edicts, controlling women’s sexuality and abiding by the rules stated by the religious clergy. It also states that the issue first rose to prominence in India because of two international legal cases on FGM against practicing Bohras in Australia and the US.

In 2018, a bench of then CJI Dipak Misra referred a petition seeking a ban on FGM among Dawoodi Bohra girls to a five-judge Constitution Bench. The Dawoodi Bohra community, on the other hand, maintained that the practice should be allowed since the Constitution grants religious freedom under Article 25.





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