Author: Saman Nadeem
Designation: Law Student, B.A LL.B, Siddhartha Law College, Dehradun
Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org
The people are living in the 21st century and no doubt we have progressed a lot, our journey started from being Apes to now being human. But the question which strangles even today is: Have we really become human, or are we still animals under the skin of humans? We still have customs, traditions and beliefs which totally shatters the claim of us being human, because such practices in the name of religion or belief cannot be justified. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one of these practices, which still prevails in the part of India, and the irony is we don’t have any separate laws for such inhumane practise. In this procedure the female genitals are being removed either wholly or partly, the main reason is that females would not have sexual desires after this. Generally, it is being practised on girls between the age of 1–14 years, it may take place in women higher than this age or among married women also.
WHO, UNFPA and UNICEF, referring to FGM stated that it can be divided into total four procedures, Procedure 1 In this procedure the prepuce i.e. clitoral hood is removed , it may or may not include the part or whole of clitoris. Procedure 2 in this clitoris is removed including partial or total removal of labia minora. Procedure 3 it is the removing part or all labia minora or/and labia majora also stitching and making vaginal orifice narrow. This procedure is also known as infibulation. Procedure 4 deals with all other non-medical and harmful procedures to the process which includes piercing and pricking clitoris or stretching it or labia, scrapping, cauterisation, including putting substances corrosive in nature into the vagina. In India, women and girls from Bohra Community are suffering from this inhumane situation. The common word used for FGM among such people is Kahaf or Khatna, it is being done by women having experience and they do such with traditional cutters. Whereas some families prefer to go to the doctor for such a procedure. It is done generally on girls between the age of 6 to 7 years. 75% to 80% of women from Bohra community are subjected to FGM.
There are different reasons given by the people following such tradition i.e. it helps in personal hygiene of women, reduces sexual desires from women and a religious belief is attached to it. But the main reason stands to reduce sexual desires. They believe that by doing such thing they protect the dignity and reputation of the whole family of women who undergoes FGM as she would not have any sexual desires thus not getting involved in sexual activity and protecting her family’s dignity.
They completely ignore the fact that such procedure would have a psychological effect on the women undergoing such things, also removing a part of the woman's body which is created by God is a disastrous process. Apart from suffering from physical harm, women also suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder. They may suffer from chronic illness, anxiety and low mood swings, even breach of trust between the relation of mother and daughter, a mother who has already gone through this pain, instead of saving her child from such things, helps in completion of procedure.
INTERNATIONAL LAW ANENT FGM
In this global world, we have global laws dealing with crimes or unjust things like this. We have laws which give us the right to have dignified life, a right to health, right to life, right to physical integrity and all these rights are being violated by all those women who have to see this cruel phase of their life. The international laws being violated are:-
Right to Physical Integrity: - International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits any such practise which violated the physical integrity of any person. Also, the Convention on the Rights of Person with Disability states that no person should be treated with inhumane conditions, torture or should not be given any degrading and cruel punishments.
Right to Life: - Article 6(1) of International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR), Article 3 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 6 of United Nation Convention on the Rights of Child (UNCRC), protects the life of each individual and there are instances where excessive mutilation leads to death of women.
Right to Health: - Universal Declaration of Human rights, International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural rights (ICESCR) and some more international covenants protect the right of each individual to have a healthy life even in its vulnerable condition.
And if all these rights are being ignored just for the sake of religious belief or what so ever belief it may carry, it is directly and clearly violation of Convention on the Elimination of all Kinds of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Article 1 which clearly eliminates all kind of discrimination.
Indian Laws including FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS and FGM
Indian Penal Code 1860 and the Indian Constitution impedes that no wrong is being committed against anyone in the country. Knowing the fact that Indian women are children are mostly exposed to torture and undignified treatment, so special laws are made for them, concerning specially with crimes dealing with women and children. But still we don’t have any particular law regarding the FGM. Section 319 to Section 326 of Indian Penal Code in general deals with crime against women, and FGM despite of having such a gut-wrenching practise does not have any section of its own, it is deemed to be dealt with existing sections.
When we talk about the Indian Constitution then Article 14 to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is clearly being violated. Article 14 to Article 21 deals with the fundamental rights which are being provided to each and every individual living in this country. And FGM clearly violated all these rights, still it is not given so much important that it should be given its own section with some serious punishment.
In the wake of all the confab that came across this article I could easily say that there is not even one law which supports such practices, neither is there any reason that could justify it. It’s an inhumane treatment which a woman undergoes. When we talk about Bohra Community of India, the reason that they state for this is, that most of the men over there are merchants and thus need to go for business for long period of time and in mean while their wives will not cheat on them because but FGM is done so they would not have any sexual desires and would stay loyal to their husbands. But the question which clearly strikes my mind is whether their husband stays loyal to them? How do they check whether they are not completing their sexual desires by travelling to other cities? But it's the old custom of our society that only women are being questioned and has to go through such undignified and inhumane conditions.
I suggest that government should take this matter as seriously as rape is being taken, already among four types of mutilation, many fits into the criteria of rape it just needs recognition. This is inhumane and a different section with severe punishment should be allotted to it. Many claim that its custom and custom acts as a source of law, but any custom which is immoral cannot be regarded as law. So, its high time a strict action is taken against such immoral, inhumane and undignified practice.