National

Supreme Court Refers Female Genital Mutilation Case To Constitutional Bench

ANANYA BHATNAGAR | 0
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| September 24 , 2018 , 14:13 IST

The Supreme Court on Monday referred a petition to a five-judge constitutional bench. The plea challenges the constitutional validity of the alleged practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) purported to be followed by the Dawoodi Bohra community in India.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and also presided by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar were hearing the matter. After hearing the matter the bench refered the petition a five judge constitutional bench.

At the previous hearing, Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi has advanced arguments in favour of the practice being an ‘essential’ part of the Fatimid school of Islam on behalf of as many as 70,000 women of the said community. He had sought a reference to a larger bench on the ground that in the past, questions of essentiality and integrality of a religious practice to a faith have always been adjudicated upon by a constitution bench.

Attorney General KK Venugopal said, “I am of the opinion that this matter should be referred to Constitution Bench.”

Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi who was representing the Dawoodi Bohra Community also supported Venugopal’s request.

What Does The Petition Say?

The petition states that the practice of khatna, as performed on every girl child within the Dawoodi Bohra religious community, does not have any reference in the Quran and is carried out without any medical reason.

It also expresses anguish over the “the atrocity, bodily pain, in-humanness and mental torture faced by the girls and women of Dawoodi Bohra community for their entire life due to the unhygienic and illegal surgeries performed on their person for non medical reasons during their childhood.”

The petition further contends that the practice is violative of Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India, submitting that the same encompasses the right of every child and woman to live with dignity, honour and without any deformity caused upon them by the others.

Bohra Women Writes To PM Narendra Modi

The women from the Bohra Community wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August last year to put a full stop to this inhumane practice.

The letter read, “Honourable PM, we the Bohra women are waging a battle for equal rights and a gender-just system, it has got nothing to do with religion. The Koran has not prescribed FGM and in India the majority of Muslims do not practice FGM except for the Bohras and some communities in Kerala.”

It further said, “This is a cultural tradition which has been perpetuated for centuries. We are now in the 21st century and the world is a changed place. Women are no longer chattels who can be taken and any part of their body be cut to curb their sexuality. We humbly request the Government to take note of this and act now on ending FGM in India.”

WHO’s Stand

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.”

For hundreds of years, this practice is being continued under a shroud of secrecy and silence and no one outside of the Bohra community even knew of its existence. Since November 2015, we, a group of Bohra women came together under the banner of ‘WeSpeakOut On FGM’, to just voice our sorrows, pains and traumas to each other. We found immense strength and courage when we connected with each other and vowed to start a battle against the pernicious practice of FGM in the Bohra community.

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

Female Genital Mutilation (often referred to as FGM) is a destructive operation, during which the female genitals are partly or entirely removed or injured with the aim of inhibiting a woman’s sexual feelings.