A religious leader of the Dawoodi Bohra sect of the Muslim community has written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for a ban on female genital mutilation (FGM), further drawing attention to the practice of khafz that is done on minor girls.
According to a report by The Print, in his letter dated 23 January, Syedna Taher Fakhruddin wrote, “I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my position and unequivocally condemn the practice of FGM. I also call on the government to introduce legislation to ban the practice and make FGM illegal.”
In his letter, he further drew attention to the practice of khafz, which is often done on minor girls in an "unsafe, unhygienic, and unsanitary" condition without their consent. "This practice has also drawn considerable attention from activists. A few years ago, women from our community came to me, highlighting their legitimate concerns regarding the unhygienic, unsanitary and unsafe conditions under which it is routinely carried out on young girls without their consent and which can lead to lifelong medical complications and trauma,” he wrote in the letter.
He informed that earlier he had appealed to the community to stop the practice of Khafz and wait until the girls reach adulthood where they can consciously choose to undergo the process under safe conditions.
FGM refers to the complete or partial removal of the female external genitalia, on the premise that it will keep their sexual desires under control. However, in his letter, Syedna wrote how khafz has been misreported over the years by the media. Talking about khafz, he wrote, "The khafz procedure is analogous to Clitoral De-Hooding (CDH), which is a medically sanctioned and fairly common procedure, especially in the West. It is not the removal of part of the clitoris as inaccurately reported by some media outlets. The purpose of this procedure is to improve a woman’s sexual health. It is performed by qualified surgeons in a clinical environment," as reported by The Print.
According to WHO, “FGM is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. It 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. The practice also violates a person’s right to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.”
In the past several organisations have taken it up at various levels of the government. In 2017, an organisation called “Speak Out on FGM” which has many people who had survived the inhuman practice, wrote a letter to PM Modi asking for the practice to be banned.