Activists Rally Around India's Supreme Court Condemning FGM
“It violates the bodily integrity of a girl child,” said the court.
A new wave of activism against female genital mutilation (FGM) in India has been buoyed by courts outwardly condemning the practice.
The Supreme Court of India this week questioned the practice of FGM of minor girls in the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community, saying that “it violates the bodily integrity of a girl child,” reports Times of India. The pronouncement has since inspired survivors and activists to voice their criticism as well.
"Why should anybody else have any control over the genitals of an individual?” said Attorney General KK Venugopal at the hearing, adding that countries such as the US, UK, and more than 27 African nations have already outlawed the practice.
Lawyer Sunita Tiwari will seek a complete ban on FGM at a hearing scheduled for July 16. The plea would make the offense non-compoundable and non-bailable with a provision for harsh punishment.
On the same day, a network of survivors under the title WeSpeakOut echoed the demand for a ban.
“We firmly believe that if India is to eliminate, eradicate, and root out the outdated practice of FGM from the country, it has to be done in a systematic, multi-pronged manner with the complete coordination and cooperation of government agencies,” a representative stated in a subsequent Times of India report.
In a study released earlier this year by the group, 97% of women who experienced FGM remembered the event as painful, according to the report, and stated they felt it had negatively impacted their sexual life.
But Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association For Religious Freedom, a Muslim group in support of "khatna," or FGM, responded by countering that the practice was “harmless” and “in keeping with religious beliefs.”
The recent “reformist” comments by the Supreme Court have left activists hopeful that real change may be on the horizon in a government that has historically “flip-flopped” on the issue, according to the latest Times of India report.
“By stating that it's not just about consent but also intent, makes us hopeful that when trials commence, both sides will be heard,” said Aarefa Johari, a member of Sahiyo, a Mumbai-based non-profit trying to end FGM.