In the wake of many instances where women/girls are subjected to genital mutilation, a plea against female genital
mutilation has caught the Supreme Court’s attention. The Supreme Court responding to the petition by a group of people
in Mumbai asked the government for a reply. The plea is seeking a “complete ban on the inhuman practice of alleged female
genital mutilation (FGM) of minor girls belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies female genital mutilation (FGM) as a violation of the human rights of
girls and women. FGM is defined by the WHO as “all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external
female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. According to WHO, FGM
reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is
nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar asked a response from the Woman and Child Development Ministry and
states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi where Dawoodi Bohras, who are Shia Muslims predominantly reside.
The Bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation plea by Delhi-based lawyer Sunita Tiwari against the practice of
‘khatna’ or female genital mutilation. The plea sought the practice to be classified as a “non-compoundable and non-
The Ministries of Law and Justice, Social Justice and Empowerment have also been made parties in the plea which referred
to various conventions of the United Nations, to which India is a signatory. In December 2012, the United Nations
general assembly unanimously voted to work for the elimination of FGM throughout the world.
The recent arrest of a Michigan-based doctor accused of performing the procedure on two 7-year-old girls from the
Dawoodi Bohra community highlights how female genital mutilation is still prevalent in places where Dawoodi Bohras have
Nigeria and Gambia recently made FGM illegal after women campaigned against it. FGM is banned in over 20 countries in
Africa. In Australia, three Dawoodi Bohras were held guilty of FGM recently by the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
In Egypt, the procedure is undertaken by trained healthcare professionals, which reduces the risk of infection, pain and
bleeding, but serves to make the procedure appear acceptable within the country, in the face of the UN resolution.
The victims who have come out in open have referred to the practice as “cruel”. The petition read, “most of us are too
scared to speak out publicly. We fear ostracization, social boycott, and exclusion of our families from the rest of the
community by our clergy if we object to this practice”.
FGM has no health benefits, in fact, it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy
and normal female genital tissue and interferes with the natural functions of bodies. FGM is often done without
anesthesia, without medical supervision and sometimes the procedure goes horribly wrong.
It is shocking that in these times, women have to fight against practices prevalent since centuries and this is still being forced
to continue under the garb of social and religious reasons.