Research of Female Genital Mutilation, and The Reasons It Should Be Banned

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 4648 |

Pages: 10|

24 min read

Published: Nov 5, 2020

Words: 4648|Pages: 10|24 min read

Published: Nov 5, 2020

Table of contents

  1. An Introduction to Female Genital Mutilation
  2. World Health Organisation Definitions
  3. Religion
    Sexual Control
    Human Rights Framework
    Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
    Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    Supreme Court Judgement in India
  4. Conclusion

An Introduction to Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation also called the circumcision of the Female genital cutting or the semi or complete removal of the external female genitalia or even injuring the female genital organs for non-medical, cultural or some fanatical religious reasons. Even the World Health Organisation confirms that there are no medically known health benefits and the removal of healthy genital tissue will result in several immediate and long-term health consequences like denying the women her sexual satisfaction, the Clitoris being the primary source of sexual pleasure, when stimulated a sexual response can be set into motion, the mutilation of the female genital violates the human-rights principles, even the basic principles of gender equality and non-discrimination of sex, on the right to life which can result in death, and denying the right to freedom from the cruel, inhuman or degrading and punishing to a child, that is forced into this horrific act.

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This is generally performed on minors this is purely depriving the child of its health putting the child into unnecessary pain. The complete irradiation of female genital mutilation has been listed as part of five of the United Nations' targeted goals. Female genital mutilation is also practised in sub-Saharan African countries and Asian and Asian Diaspora communities.

This is practised by women of the Dawoodi Bohra Community. They are a wealthy and well-educated community and have distinct attire. The Dawoodi Bohra women that are from the western part of India are found to be well educated and work in various business and professional fields, many of them are residence-based businessmen, even if they do not work outside.

Female genital mutilation also referred as ‘khatna’ or ‘khafd’ is practised by the Dawoodi Bohra community a section of the Muslim community in India, there are many Islamic scholars all over the world who do not approve this ritual. Children between the ages of six and twelve are forced to undergo this awful procedure; that involves the removal of a small pinch of skin from the hood of the clitoris.

Islam’s holy book, Quran, does not mention Female genital mutilation, the Daim al-Islam, is known as a religious text that is followed by the Dawoodi Bohra community, which completely agrees with this procedure. Probably this procedure was practised in Yemen where the Dawoodi Bohra community traces its roots, a place where female genital mutilation is strictly practised in many provinces.

As the Dawoodi Bohras have migrated to other parts of the world, this practice has also been carried on, many countries have banned Female genital mutilation leading it to be performed in secret behind closed doors. Although this practice is wide spread, this has rarely been mentioned or discussed openly in this community.

Sahir co-founder Mariya Taher, Aarefa Johari and many others have done a survey of many willing participants and a majority have given their views anonymously and with much hesitation have given their personal experiences. This research has been focused on the practice of Female genital mutilation pertaining mostly to this community generating knowledge and insights in the view of gender violence, public health and social work.

It is difficult to say when Female genital mutilation first originated, it is somewhat acknowledged that this practice is much before either Islam or Christianity (J. A. Black 1995). Could possibly even be over 2000 years old. Herodotus wrote that Female genital mutilation was practised in Egypt earlier than 500 BC; when the Greek geographer, Strabo, visited Egypt in 25 BC reported that some of the Egyptian custom was to perform circumcision on the males and female genital mutilation on the females (Knight, 2001).

Some scholars cite evidence of the procedure of Female genital mutilation to have been found on Egyptian mummies, giving credence to the fact that Female genital mutilation had been practised in Ancient Egypt as a sign of distinction among the aristocrats, (Momoh, 2005).Many Greek physicians that visited Egypt seem to have acknowledged that Female genital mutilation was used to reduce the woman’s sexual pleasure, to control her sexual behaviour.

The Romans used a technique that involved the use of rings that were slipped through the labia majora of female slaves this prevented them from becoming pregnant; the Scoptsi sect in Russia have also been known to perform Female genital mutilation just to ensure virginity (Mohmo, 2005). To cure Nymphomania, hysteria, some female disorders and masturbation, in Europe and the United States Female genital mutilation was performed in the 19th and 20th century.

Nowadays this procedure is generally practised by the Muslims, and many religious groups like the Beta Israel of Ethiopia even countries like Cameroon, Egypt, Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Niger, Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania are known to promote Female genital mutilation. The Greek physicians that visited Egypt acknowledged that Female genital mutilation was practised to reduce a woman’s sexual pleasure, which controlled her sexual behaviour.

World Health Organisation Definitions

The World Health Organisation has listed four types of Female genital mutilation with subdivisions to indicate the various types of Female genital mutilation which generally occur in communities.

  • Type I — the complete or partial removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (clitoridectomy). There are major variations of Type I mutilations, hence the following subdivisions are proposed:
  • Type Ia, the clitoral hood or prepuce only to be removed;
  • Type Ib, is the removal of both the clitoris and the prepuce.
  • Type II — the partial removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without cutting of the labia majora (excision). To distinguish between the major variations further subdivisions have been proposed like:
  • Type IIa, only the cutting of the labia minora;
  • Type IIb, the complete or partial removal of the labia minora and the clitoris;
  • Type IIc, the complete or partial removal of the clitoris, the labia majora and the labia minora.
  • Type III — the vaginal orifice is narrowed by creating a covering seal by cutting and repositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without cutting of the clitoris (infibulation). To distinguish between variations in infibulations, some further subdivisions are proposed:
  • Type IIIa, cutting and removal of the labia minora;
  • Type IIIb, cutting and removal of the labia majora.
  • Type IV — all painful and harmful procedures like pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization procedures of the genital area for non-medical reasons.

Many documented facts have proved that Female genital mutilation has been known to lead to some harmful physical effects. There are many medical complications that have been associated with Female genital mutilation which have been widely documented for Type II and Type III. Short-duration medical complications such as excruciating pain, injury to the adjacent tissue of urethra, vagina, perineum and rectum, haemorrhage, shock, acute urine retention, fracture, infection and failure to heal have been documented, there are some long-term complications like difficulty in passing urine, recurring urinary tract infections, pelvic infection, infertility, keloid scar, abscess, cyst and abscesses on the vulva clitoral neuroma, difficulty in menstrual flow, calculus formation on the vagina, Visio-Vaginal Fistula, Recto-vaginal Fistula, problems in childbirth and failure to heal have been noted.

Young girls and women have been reported to have long-term effects of Female genital mutilation on their mental well-being like fear, submission, inhibition and the suppression of feelings. Painful sexual intercourse due to cutting, narrowing of vagina opening, and obstruction of the same due to stretching of the labia minora and medical complications such as infection have been known to be the result of Female genital mutilation.

Contaminated instruments used during the process of Female genital mutilation increase the chances of the transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and also because of damaged and disrupted tissues, wound infections, repeated reproductive tract infections, and dry sex (Thein, 1995). Death rate of infants due to Female genital mutilation has increased; there was an increase of 15% in the death rate of infants for mothers with Type I, 32% for Type II, and 55% for Type III.

Not much data for the harmful effects of Type I is reported which is practised within the DawoodiBohra community- this is supposed to be common among communities practising Female genital mutilation in the Asian communities.

The only information which exists regarding the harmful medical complications of the least severe forms of Female genital mutilation is from reports and concrete evidence which are not necessarily true and from small-scale case reports. These cases cite bleeding, pain, discomfort, burning sensation while urinating, swelling and infection as short term complications. Long term effects are reported like partial or complete absence of sexual arousal during intercourse, and fear of intimacy.

Female genital mutilation is justified by communities, who practise it by citing,

  • Religion.
  • Hygiene.
  • Sexual control.
  • Culture (Identity and marriage)


World Health Organisation (2001) reported that some religions like Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and animistic communities are a reason to proceed with the act of mutilating the genitals. They use Religion to falsely encourage the practise within Islam, as reported by Islamic Relief Canada (2013-2016).

There are many Islamic Scholars who have a difference of opinion in the procedure, with some claiming it obligatory, and others claiming it as acceptable, but not mandatory. Some scholars claim that Islam is not the base for this procedure; nowhere in the Quran is it mentioned of the female genital mutilation practise. However among the Dawoodi Bohras, female genital mutilation is an unspoken tradition that is mandated by Islamic clergy.

The Dawoodi Bohras community is known to be a sub-sect of Ismali Shia; their linage is traced back to the Fatimid dynasty of Yemen of the eleventh century. The religious or spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohras community is the Da’i al-Mutlaq referred to with the title of ‘Syedna’. In the 1500’s this hierarchy originated in Yemen and moved to Gujarat, in India. Guajarati is the language spoken by the Dawoodi Bohraa business community. They are known to have a distinct culture with a population that is estimated to be between one and two million. The majority of the Dawoodi Bohras are known to reside in India and Pakistan, but the last few decades have seen a large portion of the Dawoodi Bohras have migrated to the Middle East, East Africa, Europe, North America, Australia, and other parts of Asia. The present office and administrative headquarters of the Dawoodi Bohra’s D’ai are located in Mumbai, India.

Despite the fatwa prominent scholars do not acknowledge the practise of femalegenital mutilation;many rulings also condone the ‘Sunnah’ type of Female genital mutilation. For instance the largest Muslim clerical body, the Majelis Ulama of Indonesia that consists of a large number of leading Muslim groups of Indonesia like Muhammadiyat and Nahdlatul Ulama who do not entirely agree or reject Female genital mutilation but promotes it as a religious and constitutional requirement for Indonesians giving them no option to decide for themselves.


On medical benefits, there have been no proofs of Female genital mutilation. However the Islamic Relief Canada (2016) believes that the procedure makes the genital area clean and healthy. The many men in some countries feel that female genitals are offensive and so promote that it should either be removed or infibulated (sutured) as the genital area is not clean. Some myths are that a part of the vagina called clitoris will grow to the size of a penis or that the clitoris is a man’s organ whichshould be removed, many others believe that Female genital mutilation is a cure for infertility, as per survey conducted by Who Health Organisation (2001) many believe that if the genitalia is not cut it could cause blindness, harm physically, can be the cause of madness and can even be fatal leading to the death of her child. These findings clearly indicate that even though Female genital mutilation performed by women on other women (Mackie, 1996), would in reality be a patriarchal tradition that is used to separate women and enforce a submissive role in the community.

Sexual Control

The survey conducted by World Health Organisation (2001) states that Female genital mutilation minimizes women’s sexual behaviour before marriage, and helps her to remain a virgin, giving importance to Female genital mutilation defines a women’s role in society by her sexuality, which is clearly a gender discrimination.

The study conducted by Islamic Relief Canada (2013-2016) states those females who underwent Female genital mutilation increased their desire for intimate sexual relations to married couples.


Ethiopian Society of Population studies (2008) states that the women in Ethiopia undergo Female genital mutilation as a loyalty towards their faith and culture; this plays an important role in continuing Female genital mutilation, and strengthens their cultural identity of the group.

Pressure from peers and family will turn this practise into a formal or informal necessity to be accepted in the society. Dustin and Davies (2007) research emphasized Female genital mutilation’s role in the social identity, those women that did not undergo this procedure were looked down by society. Which pressurises the family’s prestige that accompanies women which belong to this particular community. It is also looked upon as a marriage requirement; only if undertaken makes her highly eligible.

On the contrary a research conducted by Islamic Relief Canada females in Indonesia who refused to undergo Female genital mutilation were looked upon with scorn declaring them unclean, these women were happily married and even employed.

For some communities, Female genital mutilation is considered a practise that must continue as a healthy procedure for the good of the females. This norm plays a prescriptive role: whoever goes against the community and does not adhere to the decisions whatever the majority of the community is practising is considered mutinous and defiant. The communities that follow Female genital mutilation consider it to be loyal to the norms of the society and women who have not undergone Female genital mutilation will be treated like an outcast for not undergoing the orders of the community, even though it is proved to be medically harmful the elders of the community would still continue it as it is regarded to be a religious requirement.

Human Rights Framework

The United Nations Declaration of rights states that the right to health for women and children have the right to health a healthy body and to be free from any form of torture. Female genital mutilation has been discussed in the framework of girl´s and women´s rights (Rahman and Toubia, 2000) since 1997. World Health Organisation along with the United Nation’s Children Fund, and the United Nation’s Population Fund, along with other agencies has issued multiple statements that condemn the process of Female genital mutilation.

Women and children have the integral right to a healthy and body and to be free from any torture, declaration of Rights. The UNICEF survey estimates 200 million women and girls who are victims of Female genital mutilation from 30 countries worldwide.

In 2012 a landmark decision taken by the United Nations General Assembly, to intensify Global efforts to Eliminate the procedure of Female Genital Mutilation, exhorting all countries to enact a legislation banning Female genital mutilation. Over the years a structure of International and government laws have been explicitly formed prohibiting Female genital mutilation. Many communities who cling to Female genital mutilation as a necessary cultural tradition, to view Female genital mutilation as a human rights breach or that it is equivalent to child abuse or sexual assault- is incompatible.

Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Have clearly voiced their opinion against the thought that Female genital mutilation is necessary to prepare a girl for her adulthood and marriage, it aims to make sure premarital virginity and marital loyalty.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 1 all human beings are natural and the same dignity and rights. They are gifted with reason and sense of right and wrong and should act towards one another in a spirit of fraternity.

Resolution of UN General Assembly, December 10, 1948 clearly states in, Article 5 no. one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, brutal or humiliating treatment or punishment. These are two primary rights that are violated by the families that are practising Female genital mutilation.

Edna Adnan Ismail from the International Planned Parenthood Foundation gives her own example, 'I cannot converse about the bedroom when all I experience is pain and recurrent infection. My husband knows this. We together have the same opinion that our daughter will never be slashed and have a growing sympathetic understanding from youthful male peer educators, 'we do not require cutting our daughters at all, not even the 'sunna'. I will get married whoever I marry but she does not call for her to be cut. Should I have daughters, they will not be incised, never.'

There are two main pragmatic theories that the international human rights body has adopted to comprise violence against women under its frame the first is to conceptualize aggression against women as a form of sex inequity and second, to imaginatively reinterpret present human rights provisions to make sure that they apply to the experience of the women and to be free from torture, and other unkind inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. No juvenile girls in this world ought to have to go through the disturbance and pain of Female genital mutilation. Religious cultures ought not to be empowered to win away the human rights of their innocent members. The legal system should not disrespect and let down the young girls and women from being violated of their sexual anatomy. Rituals without any logic cannot hold on too long. Sati at one time was also favoured to be a tradition in India, this was practised and blindly followed for decades, now it is eradicated genuine reasoning with advancement of research and scientific development will definitely prevail.

If they want to be heard, women need to convince international and local decision making bodies for what has been done to them is worthy of international attention by either equating the harm done to their bodies and justifying why their experience of Female genital mutilation deserves to be highlighted because the harm done to their bodies. The consequence of this process is to discontinue the ill-treatment of women, and to help them maintain the uniqueness of their bodies.

There are many practises which have been followed without any reason for decades, a number of of them have been altered or tailored or amended in the course of time, with the progression of research and scientific expansion The world should come to know the genuine fact that the extent of suffering women undergo with no slip-up of their own because of Female genital mutilation.

Supreme Court Judgement in India

On 23rd September 2018 the Supreme Court of India referred a Public Interest Litigation filled by a Delhi based lawyer challenging the practise of Female genital mutilation done on small girls of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community.

A team constituted by Chief Justice Dipak Mishra and Justices A. M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud. The Public Interest Litigation plea is that Female genital mutilation is performed unlawfully upon girls (between five years and before she has attained teenage years) and is against the United Nations convention on the Rights of the child, United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which India is a signatory, causes undeviating disfiguration to the physical condition of the girl child.”

The Attorney general K. K. Venugopal told the three judge’s bench the practise is banned in The United States of America, Australia, United Kingdom, and several African countries. It must be forbidden by law. The Chief Justice of India, Justice Dipak Mishra demanded to know if the practise could be imposed on women if they did not want to accept it, “if they are opposed to it can you force it on them” asked justice Mishra. Justice chandrachud made a move further to ask “Why must a women’s right to bodily honour be sullied? Everybody’s are a personal part of them and they have utter control over them. Can anyone be authorized to handle them”.

A faction of Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community members had previously told the Apex Court that Female genital circumcision is experienced by a few sects of Islam, including the Dawoodi Bohra community, and the legality of this be examined, if at all, by a bigger legal body. With this set off they should seize the chance to continue to put force on their leaders to stand up in opposition to Female genital mutilation as a human rights infringement, to carry alertness towards the issue, and to save from harm the young girls. Justice must be given to the girl child, all loop holes that encourage practise of Female genital mutilation must be stream lined. It is sad to see technicalities overshadow human rights. They have to strive for a mature treatment of this issue. Those encouraging and practising Female genital mutilation must be required to be punished and a strong example must be set for all those in the community who practise and encourage Female genital mutilation. Even though it does not appear to be mentioned in the Quran, the Bohras consider ‘Khatna’- their name for Female genital mutilation- to be a religious obligation.

The Syedna, the spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community, whose base is Mumbai, is in favour of the practise. He has determined to keep quiet and the practise continues unabated. Their idea is to suppress the women and to dominate them. This practise is not tolerable for the Muslims in India apart from the Bohra sect. The women in the society have to lift up their right to be heard only when they are equipped to get a majority support will they be able to convince their leaders it will be tough but they have to build up the momentum and try to engage as many as possible to join their rebellion only then will there be a chance of the legislation being effective.

Many countries have legislated Female genital mutilation as a criminal offence. In India Female genital mutilation could be brought under Indian Penal Code Section 326- causing grievous hurt, (Whoever causes lasting or partial injury or distortion to, or burns or maims or disfigures or disables, any part or parts of the body of a person or causes serious hurt by throwing acid on or to administer acid to that person, or by means of any other means with the purpose of causing or through the knowledge that he is likely to cause such injury or hurt, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than ten years but which may extend to imprisonment for life, and with fine.) However, communities that put into practice Female genital mutilation either ignore or are ignorant of the criminal laws concerning beating and physical harm under which this system could be applied.

Legislation must be created to dissuade the continuance of Female genital mutilation within practising communities, this should be very stringent and laws should be put forth criminalising Female genital mutilation by respective governments to have the desired effect of eliminating the practise all together. The effects of female genital mutilation Legislation requires to be deliberated more carefully. Legislation must be formulated in such a manner that unintended consequences will be minimised.

Some thoughts of the Bohra community are: “You need to get trusted people to go to the community, to the villages. Don’t speak about human rights or girl’s integrity and don’t openly speak about Female Genital Mutilation. Converse about healthiness, they want their girls to be healthy. Inform them about the jeopardy of barrenness and HIV, about the hurting and chronic infections.' – Edna Adnan Ismail 'We move in the direction of mothers from the maternity division; we converse with them and try to earn their confidence, we give details to them of the health risks and Encourage them to keep approaching our clinics.' – Dr. Amal Ahmed


My personal opinion on Female genital mutilation is that it completely violates the human rights, it is inhuman and should be banned, though the 2012 United Nations resolution called for a global ban on the practise of Female genital mutilation there is little attention paid to the plight of the victims and the fact that there are not many measures taken for the eradication of this practise. There has to be a clear understanding of the degree and possibility of the practise of Female genital mutilation all over the world so that policymakers, program developers, and health professionals will be acquainted with how to put an ending to this structure of gender hostility As per the Sahiyo study the rationalization given by the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community is that Female genital mutilation is profoundly entrenched in their culture.

In 2016 when a strong opposition arose inside the Dawoodi Bohra community which gained media attention, their religious leader Syedna Mufaddal made a public speech in April 2016 that, “the act”, must continue “discreetly for girls” implying that it should done at all costs even if it means that it must be done even if it is deemed illegal in the country. The June 2016 press statement of the spiritual power clarified that Female genital mutilation ought to be carried out in country like India where the practise has still not been made illegal. Meanwhile a part of Bohras under the leadership of Syedna Taher Fakhruddin, condemned Female genital mutilation, declaring it “an un-Islamic and horrific practise”, but claimed that ‘khatna’ that is appearing in the religious book ‘Daim al-Islam’ of the DawoodiBohra community ought to be done on girls. He said that ‘khatna’ is just a clitoral un-hooding procedure which is medically and legally sanctioned in many countries, and is performed to enhance sexual pleasure of women, not to suppress it. This has allowed a public dialogue within the community, resulting into a public debate.

In March 2016 Masooma Ranalvi bravely gave her testimony about her experience of this horrific procedure done on her when she was seven years old, which she vividly remembers. Masooma Ranalvi in an interview to Al Jazeera English said: 'I remember it so clearly. I was made to lie down, my legs were tightly held and I was slashed with a blade. We are aware that to accomplish something in ending Female Genital Mutilation - we have got to work at all levels and through all players, together with devout leaders, youthful folks, mothers and grandmothers; focusing on our human rights and gender fairness and to verbalize in a language that is explicit. It was an excruciating pain. It was so frightening and I couldn't stop weeping, it happened in such a primal way but we were in the pulsating city of Mumbai. Even to date, what happened was under no circumstances spoken about.'

There should be more personal experiences voiced out, which will force the highly revered religious clerics to change their stance, only then will this horrific practise begin to be abandoned. There are already voices raised to maintain their right, together voices must be raised in support, this will make stronger the drive to eliminate Female genital mutilation.

Aarefa Johari, said “that the emotional impacts on women are enormous, ranging starting from closeness issues to marriage dilemma and social worry. They don't have the right to control women's sexuality. There is a comprehensive lack of approval. The final goal is to authorize Dawoodi Bohra and the remaining Asian communities to end Female Genital Mutilation.

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The survey conducted by Sahiyo a group united against Female genital mutilation out of three hundred and eighty-five respondents from the members of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community three hundred and twenty-eight, or eighty-five percent felt that Female genital mutilation should not carry on.

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