Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Resistance Against Female Genital Mutilation in India is Growing | The Wire

On June 9, Judge Johnson of the Supreme Court of New South Wales in Australia passed a landmark judgment. Shabbir Vaziri, a senior Bohra priest, was sentenced to 11 months in jail for promoting, perpetuating and enforcing the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the community. This was the first case in history in which Bohras, including a mother and a nurse, were prosecuted for conducting FGM on two small girls. The four-year-long trial concluded with the sentencing verdict, at which jail time was handed out to the priest, while a much more lenient sentence of home detention was enforced on the mother of the two girls and the 80-year-old nurse who performed the procedure. Clearly, the judge differentiated between the mother and nurse, who were forced to perpetuate the practice and the priest – a representative of the clergy – who actively enforced the continuation of FGM in the community.

Just over a month before the verdict, on April 15, the community’s religious head, the Syedna Muffadal, spoke about a subject that had never before been spoken about openly. In a public sermon in Mumbai, he said:
“It must be done. If it is a man, it can be done openly and if it is a woman it must be discreet. But the act must be done. Do you understand what I am saying? Let people say what they want… What do they say? That this is harmful? Let them say it, we are not scared of anyone.”

Those who attended the sermon were certain that this was a reference to khatna, or female genital mutilation (FGM), even though the term was not used. This is because FGM is the only practice that is practiced secretly on women. The sermon was a crystal clear exhortation to the community to practice khatna, even if there is opposition to it.

On June 6, the public relations department of the Syedna issued a press release which very clearly spelt out that FGM would continue in countries which do not have anti-FGM laws.

“Male and female circumcision (called khatna and khafz respectively) are religious rites that have been practiced by Dawoodi Bohras throughout their history,” the statement said. “Religious books, written over a thousand years ago, specify the requirements for both males and females as acts of religious purity.”

The statement and the sermon both signify the turmoil in the community and the need for the head clergy to clarify their stance on the subject.

The Resistance Against Female Genital Mutilation in India is Growing | The Wire

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