- FGM is practiced in the Dawoodi Bohra community, it is also practiced by all Bohra sects including Sulemani and Alvi Bohras.
- While existing laws like the Indian Penal Code and the POCSO can deal with FGM, there would be need for amendments and definition of FGM would have to be included. Also other provisions for relief, rehabilitation and protection are needed, hence a separate law to curb this act would be best under the circumstances.
- The parent, who is performing the act, the cutters and propagators (Amils) should be penalized, in this order
- Victims should not only be compensated but also be rehabilitated, cases should be reported to a government and accredited NGO
- Doctors, teachers, social workers and Amils should be at the fore in reporting cases of FGM to the police
- FGM cannot be justified as a ‘religious practice’
- A designated person should be able to obtain a restraining order in case of proposed FGM
- Syedna should be called upon to pass Jamaat resolutions all over the country decrying the practice of FGM and Amils should conduct awareness drives
- Specific amendments may be made in the Indian Medical Council so that FGM is categorized as a form of professional misconduct.
- Speak Out on FGM and Lawyers Collective will also intervene in the PIL in the Supreme Court of India on FGM
We welcome the recent statement by Maneka Gandhi, Minister Women and Child Development ,“the custom of female genital mutilation (FGM), practised by the Dawoodi Bohra community, is a criminal offence and if the community does not stop it voluntarily, the government will bring in a law to ban the practice.”
In this context Speak Out On FGM, a group of FGM survivors, and Lawyers Collective, a human rights NGO, have together published a legal report titled Female Genital Mutilation – A Guide to Eliminating the Practice of FGM in India.
Explaining about the Report, Masooma Ranalvi, Convener Speak out on FGM, stated that: “The recent case in the USA against three Bohras for performing FGM on multiple girls has hit home the point that FGM is secretly and silently being perpetuated. A law against the practice of FGM will serve as a strong deterrent in the otherwise law abiding bohra community. Through this report we present a road map of what exactly are the steps we can take to effectively curb and eliminate FGM in India. A law along with administrative measures of promoting awareness, sensitizing the community on the subject and grass roots campaigning for social reform will help us eventually root out the practice of FGM.”
Prepared over six months, the 57-page report explores not only the physical and psychological trauma on the girl child due to FGM , but also how opposing the practice affects members of the community — for instance, many fear being ostracized — while proposing that the only way to ensure complete elimination is a separate law.
While sections of the IPC and POCSO Act can be used to penalize FGM, there is no specific mention of FGM in these laws and the practice largely goes unnoticed since it is shrouded in secrecy and the community prefers to remain silent on the subject.
Elucidating this, Ms. Indira Jaising, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India, stated that, “every act or practice must stand the scrutiny of the Constitution of India and we demonstrate it to be non-discriminatory. FGM is not only illegal as this report demonstrates but is also unconstitutional as it disproportionally impacts the girl child. It is also prohibited by International conventions which India has signed.”
It in this context, this report studies in detail the implications of the practice on young girls and women of the community, the reasons and justifications for the practice, the nature of the procedure, the people who conduct it, and the ways in which the practice is propagated and glorified. It is adequately established by International bodies like World Health Organisation that FGM causes physical, psychological and sexual trauma to the girl child.
The report goes on to talk about international and national laws with respect to the violation of the fundamental rights of children and women, and recommends effective interventions which the Indian state can incorporate. As of today over 200 million women are affected by FGM which is prevalent in 30 countries across the world.
The report recommends that the definition of FGM, as provided in the joint statement by WHO/UNFPA/UNICEF, which is comprehensives and covers all the types of FGM practiced by different communities across the world, be adopted: “All procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”
It recommends a time period of three years within which one can report an incident of FGM, and that it should be the duty of frontline professionals such as teachers, social workers and medical practitioners, including community leaders, to report such incidents to the police.
Since it is primarily the parents within the Bohra community who take their daughters to ‘cutters’, they should be the first category of perpetrators who may be held accountable and penalized, followed by ‘traditional cutters’ or, in some cases, ‘medical professionals’. Furthermore, the role of religious/community leaders in propagation of the practice should not be negated.
However, the most important thing that the report recommends is measures to prevent the practice. These include providing a helpline and conducting awareness programmes in schools. “Ward committees, panchayats and civil society groups should coordinate with each other effectively to sensitize the Bohra community and conduct safety audits. Further, specific duty may be cast on the religious/community leaders to carry out such awareness generation programmes,” the report reads.
The report analyses various gender-based legislations, and highlights the need for a separate and specific law to deal with FGM in India. According to the report, issues of prevention, education, rehabilitation and awareness building are essential for a socio- legal change, since social reforms based on awareness and education are as critical as legal interventions. The report provides clear directions about how awareness around the issue may be heightened and the victims rehabilitated.