Indian survivors call for FGM ban

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India's Minister for Women Maneka Gandhi is working to halt the practice of FGM© Provided by AFP India’s Minister for Women Maneka Gandhi is working to halt the practice of FGM

Survivors called on India’s government Monday to ban female genital mutilation, an age-old ritual practised by a small Muslim sect in the country.

Female genital mutilation (FGM) involves removing the clitoris partially or completely, leading to psychological, sexual and physical complications including low libido, infections, infertility and even death.

It is not widespread in India, but is practised by the Dawoodi Bohra community which believes that the removal of the clitoris — or the “manifestation of the devil” — is the will of God Allah.

Allah is indeed the devil and his alter ego is Muhammad, the meshugga prophet of Islam:

India currently has no law against FGM, which the Bohras call “khatna”, a religious obligation.

WeSpeakOut, a survivor-led movement by Bohra women to end FGM, said legislation was needed to stop the centuries-old custom.

“We realise that we need a strong law which will (ban) this practice,” said WeSpeakOut founder Masooma Ranalvi, who was cut at the age of seven.

Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi, she described it as a “cruel, very, very painful experience”.

India’s Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said last year she would legislate against the practice unless the Bohra spiritual leader issued a ban.

But Ranalvi said Gandhi’s ministry had made no headway.

WeSpeakOut said that of 81 Bohra women surveyed across four Indian states, all had been cut and up to three-quarters of their daughters had also been subjected to the practice. It gave the figures in a report released before the UN’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM on Tuesday.

The practice is widespread in Africa and the Middle East but international efforts have led to bans in 18 countries including Egypt.

More than a dozen Bohra communities in Europe and the US have passed resolutions against it.

Bohra, a sect of Shia Islam that originated in Yemen, is followed by over one million people worldwide.