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DIWA: Nigeria bans Female Genital Mutilation: Shouldn’t India follow suit?

16.9.2015. Nigeria made history by outlawing female genital mutilation. The act falls under the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015 and the bill, which was passed in May was recently enacted into the law.

While Nigeria joins hands with a worldwide movement that aims to eradicate the practice from all countries – U.N. eradicated the practice worldwide in 2012 – India, along with several Asian and African countries still continue the unlawful practice. The barbaric act, defined by WHO as the act of partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, continues to be carried out in tiny bylanes of the country, well hidden not only by those who do it, but also those who are exposed to it.

More than 130 million girls and women across the world have experienced female genital mutilation and the situation doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. However, the ancient culture that surrounds it, along with the Islamic religious cover makes it easy for people to still believe in and continue with a tradition so barbaric that it deserves corporal punishment. In fact it would be safe to say that its religious roots are the biggest problem that activists face when trying to eradicate the age old practice.

Predominantly followed by the Bohra community in India , genital mutilation practices range from clipping or removal of the clitoris to mutilating and removing other female genitalia in order to curb the woman’s sexual desire.

While India doesn’t have a law banning the act, it is a punishable crime. As per the Indian Penal Code (Section 326 – causing grievous hurt), a girl who is subjected to FMG can lodge a complaint against the parents and the person performing the act. However, the loophole in this is that most girls are subjected to FGM at an early age of five to seven years when they are too young to know better.

What we need in the county is a major movement that educates people on why FGM is such a heinous crime. Apart from spoiling the sexual life of a girl, there are many cases of women losing their lives in childbirth due to excessive bleeding aided by FGM. We need the religious leaders and followers to look deep into the culture and understand why despite several scholars claiming that FGM has no relevance to religion, it is still carried forward in the name of Islam. A basic fact check reveals that countries like Iran and Iraq, predominant Islamic countries do not follow the barbaric tradition. As per Wikipedia, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa stated in 2007 that “the traditional form of excision is a practice totally banned by Islam because of the compelling evidence of the extensive damage it causes to women’s bodies and minds.” Egyptian Islamist scholars such as Mohammed Emara and Mohammad Salim Al-Awa have opposed FGM, arguing that it is not an Islamic practice and is not endorsed by Islamic jurisprudence.

“Despite the fact that FGM/C predates the birth of Islam and is not mandated by religious scriptures, the belief that it is a religious requirement contributes to the continuation of the practice in a number of settings,” states UNICEF.

Along with a religious awakening, we also need a government law that outright bans the practice to protect the interest of young girls who are in no state to protest against the act.

It’s time for us to wake up and put a stop to this horrendous crime taking place right in our neighbourhoods.