Although there are special legislations on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) across the world, India fails to enact any existing laws on its procedure. This has allowed it to persist in secrecy. The practice in India is widely known as “khatna” or “khafd”, and includes the removal of the clitoris. It is common amongst the Bohra community, whose members live in Kerala, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

India has become a “hub” for FGM/C due to the absence of any laws against the practice.

A recent study by a survivor-led organisation observed that:

  • 75% of daughters (some below seven years of age) have been subject to the procedure.
  • 33% of women reported that FGM/C not only affected their physical and psychological health, but their sexual life as well.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) as

“the total or partial removal of external female genitalia or other injuries to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”.

There are no health benefits of the procedure. Instead, those who undergo female genital cutting tend to suffer emotional, physical, sexual and psychological implications throughout their life. FGM/C leads to long term complications, like:

  • painful menstruation and urination,
  • post-traumatic stress disorder,
  • depression,
  • urinary tract infections, and
  • bacterial vaginosis.

The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 200 million females have been subjected to FGM/C. Every year, 3 million girls are exposed to the risk of going through FGM/C.

In April 2020, Sudan criminalised FGM/C, which made the procedure of it punishable by law: three years in jail. Under the Convention on Rights of Child, Article 24 explicitly states that

“States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.”

FGM/C persists in India in secrecy.

Amnesty India remarks that,

“while FGM/C is well documented around the world, in India the veil of secrecy means no official data on its prevalence”.

In fact, the Government of India submitted in the Supreme Court that “there is no official data or study which supports the existence of FGM in India”.

Female Genital Cutting has long-term implications on women’s physical and psychological health. It is imperative for India to take steps to address this issue. both in terms of legislation and raising awareness amongst religious communities who are still performing Female Genital Cutting.

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution 67-146 emphasizes eliminating the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting. It states that,

FGM/C is “an irreparable, irreversible abuse that impacts negatively on the human rights of women and girls”.

India needs a legislation to criminalise the practise of female genital cutting.

The practice is also performed by highly educated individuals who associate FGM/C with religion. Therefore, India must enforce strict rules and regulations. The government needs to take necessary steps to spread awareness and educate people about the health implications of the procedure. There must be a comprehensive piece of legislation, which criminalises the practice and enforces harsh punishments on any medical practitioners who practice it. The government must protect females against inhumane abuse which affect their bodily integrity and health.

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