violence against women

Female genital cutting in India: Three women share their chilling stories of khatna

"You're not supposed to have 'haraam ki boti' in you."

Should a woman be circumcised to moderate her sexual urges? Some members of the Dawoodi Bohra sect, part of the Shia community – spread primarily across Gujarat and Maharashtra – believe so, even today.

And so they encourage khatna – the practice of snipping off the tip of the clitoral hood – also known as Female Genital Cutting (FGC). The process, both painful and humiliating, is unfortunately supported by some midwives and even by some older women.

The video above shows the chilling similarities in the stories of three women who were made to through khatna at the age of seven, traumatic memories of which remain fresh in their minds.

Although similar to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), FCG carries different connotations, according to Sahiyo, a non-profit group combating the ritual. The term “mutilation” indicates harm, which is not the aim of khatna.

FGM could range from cutting the tip of the clitoris to removing the inner and outer labia, and, in some communities, stitching the labia closed.

According to the World Health Organisation, between 100 million and 140 million women and girls across the world are thought to be living with the consequences of FGM. The United Nations has termed FGM a human right violation. However, India’s name doesn’t feature on the list of countries where it is practised.

A report by Sahiyo shows that 74% of women subjected to FCG in India had been operated on by people with no medical qualifications. And 65% of the participants did not know which part of their genital anatomy had been cut.

While the objective of the pernicious practice is to curb sexual enjoyment, 56 per cent of the women surveyed said it was done for religious purposes (without knowing why).

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