SC questions female genital mutilation

The News

  • The Supreme Court questioned the practice of female genital mutilation of minor girls in the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community, saying it violates the bodily integrity of a girl child.

 

News Summary

Background:

  • A petition was files in Supreme Court that sought a direction from court to the Centre and the states to impose a complete ban on the inhuman practice of khatna– female genital mutilation (FGM) throughout the country.
  • The plea has sought to make FGM an offence on which the law enforcement agencies can take cognisance.
  • It has also sought to make the offence non-compoundable and non-bailable with provision for harsh punishment.
  • The court had agreed to examine the issues by saying that the practice of female genital mutilation was extremely important and sensitive.

 

Petitioner’s argument:

  • The FGM is performed illegally upon girls (between five years and before she attains puberty) and is against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which is India is a signatory.
  • It is a ritual performed on every girl child within the Dawoodi Bohra religious community without any medical reason and does not have any reference in the Quran.
  • The practice causes permanent disfiguration to the body of a girl child.
  • The practice also amounts to causing inequality between the sexes and constitutes discrimination against women. Since it is carried out on minors, it amounts to serious violation of the rights of children as even minors have a right of security of person, right to privacy, bodily integrity and the freedom from cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.
  • Many countries like the USA, the United Kingdom, Australia and around 27 African countries have banned this practice. However there is no law in India banning FGM or Khatna to declare it illegal.

 

Government’s response:

  • Attorney General, representing the Centre, said that the practice causes irreparable harm to girl children and needed to be banned.
  • He reiterated the Centre’s stand and said that the practice violated various fundamental rights of the girl child and moreover, such kind of genital mutilation has serious repercussions on their health.
  • Attorney General urged the court to issue directions against the practice which the international community had condemned.

 

Supreme Court’s observation:

  • The observation, from a Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, came after the Centre condemned the practice of female genital mutilation performed by some communities on children as a religious practice.
  • Bench said such practices on children were an offence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
  • Bench also questioned right of authority to touch the female genital as no one can use religious practices to touch the female body.
  • However, the court also decided to hear an application for impleading filed by the Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom and other parties who are part of the petition.

 

Respondent’s argument:

  • Bohra community argued that khafz/female circumcision as practised by the Dawoodi Bohra community is not female genital mutilation and it was an essential part of their religion and protected under the Constitution.
  • They, on the other hand, referred to the practice of male circumcision (khatna) in Islam and said that it has been allowed in all countries and this is the accepted religious practice then why not FGM.
  • They said that the matter be referred to a constitution bench as it pertained to the issue of essential practice of the religion which needed to be examined.

 

Additional information:

  • Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia.
  • Typically carried out by a traditional circumciser using a blade, FGM is conducted from days after birth to puberty and beyond.
  • The practice is rooted in traditionalist Islamic ideas about sexuality, purity, modesty and beauty. It is usually initiated and carried out by women, who see it as a source of honour, and who fear that failing to have their daughters and granddaughters cut will expose the girls to social exclusion.
  • In 2008 several UN bodies recognized FGM as a human-rights violation, and in 2010 the UN called upon healthcare providers to stop carrying out the procedures, including reinfibulation after childbirth and symbolic nicking. In 2012 the General Assembly passed resolution for, “Intensifying global efforts for the elimination of female genital mutilations

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