Indian has a small but significant number of Dawoodi Bohra Muslims who add up to be half a million across the country. Since the Supreme Court has taken up the matter of FGM and FC in its own hands, Dawoodi Bohra Muslim women are under a lot of fire from across the country for practising Female Circumcision (FC) which, they say, is often misconstrued as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
SheThePeople.TV spoke to Samina Kanchwala, Secretary of Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom, to give us a different perspective. Edited snippets from the conversation.
“We are very clear that Khafz is a practice and a basic religious tenet. There are some people who don’t want to do it and we don’t have a problem with that but at least we, who want to fulfil every single tenet of our religion, I think we should not be denied of this. So, we are hoping that the Supreme Court will intervene to help us and give us the right to practice,” she said about the recent SC hearing where the apex court questioned FGM and said that it violates “bodily integrity” of a girl child.
Kanchwala strictly denies the practice of FGM and says that what they practice is Female Circumcision. “People have interchangeably used the two terms which are not similar at all in practice,” she said, adding that the moment you say FGM you are talking about mutilation and we as a community and a religion, we don’t support mutilation at all.
“FC is a very small nick on the prepuce which is the clitoral hood. It is a completely harmless process. Now, this nick cannot be compared with mutilation and if you look at male circumcision then that is much more invasive than female circumcision where the entire foreskin is removed,” Kanchwala puts perspective in FC.
She went on to speak about how the women in the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community are a force to reckon with in term of financial independence and adapting to modern lifestyle. Talking about why these women conduct the circumcision, she said, “It is an act of Taharat for us. Islam is based on seven pillars and Taharat is one of them so like we have cleanliness and hygiene for the rest of our body, this is also one act of cleanliness. It is there in our religious text and we have been following it for the last 1400 years. Now we as women from the community, who have grown up, are happy and satisfied women. We haven’t faced any issue that people talk of us facing.”
"FC is a very small nick on the prepuce which is the clitoral hood. It is a completely harmless process. Now, this nick cannot be compared with mutilation and if you look at male circumcision then that is much more invasive than female circumcision where the entire foreskin is removed”
Kanchwala goes on to talk about gender equality in circumcision and says, “On one side you give this right of circumcision to men and question women when they have it too. Why do I live under the stress that since I am not clean enough, I won’t be able to perform my prayers well? Why should I be denied of it? On one side people talk about feminism and on the other there is inequality. Why do we not let our girls also have circumcision too? Just because science has proved the benefits of male circumcision? Science has only proved it a few decades ago but the practice is centuries old.”
On asking about what she wants to say to the critics, she said, “We only want to say that please don’t consider us Bechara. We don’t want anyone to intervene in our matter. Yes, it is secretly done because it is about our private part and we never want to talk about it openly. So there is nothing patriarchal about it.”
She also talked about how women from the community have to face discrimination in the society for belonging to the religious group and asked all sorts of questions. “We don’t deserve this treatment. What happened in the court, it seems like they have inherent pre-conceived notions about the community. But I have trust in the system and I feel that they will understand our plea sooner or later,” Kanchwala said.
Picture credit: NewLoveTimes