With Australia and the US among others outlawing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), members of the Dawoodi Bohra community from these countries are visiting India to observe this practice, a study has suggested.
The survey, conducted by 'WeSpeakOut' - a survivor-led movement to end FGM in India in collaboration with Nari Samta Manch was released on Monday as February 5 is being observed as "International Day of Zero Tolerance" by WeSpeakOut. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor was also present at the event.
"There is no law in India which terms the practice of FGM as a criminal act whereas it has been termed illegal in many other countries which makes it convenient for Bohra community members to visit India and perform it," Masooma Ranalvi, Founder, WeSpeakOut, told IANS.
FGM is widely practised amongst the Dawoodi Bohra community, a Shia Muslim sect that considers the ritual, known as 'khafd', a religious obligation although it is not mentioned in the Quran.
Lakshmi Anantnarayan, an independent researcher for this campaign group, added that though no exact data is available, they have evidences to support the trend mentioned by 'WeSpeakOut'.
"While conducting the survey we got this fact confirmed from people within the Bohra community that the members visit India to get FGM done on young girls. And this is happening very secretively," Anantnarayan stated.
"And the doctors are scared to accept that they perform FGM in their clinics. While it is mostly the doctors from Bohra community who perform this, many of them are not well trained. And since it is still not a criminal act in India so the doctors cannot be even charged," Ranalvi added.
At present, there is no official data or study by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) or the WCD ministry which supports the existence of FGM in India.
The research also suggested that the increased anti-FGM advocacy and awareness through media is forcing the practice underground in India.
The campaign group began their research work last year and spoke to 83 women, aged between 17-80, belonging to the Bohra community in 12 cities across four states - Ahmedabad, Baroda, Bhavnagar, Dahod, Godhra, Indore, Mumbai, Pune, Ratlam, Selana, Surat, and Udaipur. The survey was later extended to Kerala as well, where a few Sunni Muslim sections are known to practice FGM.
The research revealed that 75 per cent of girls, whom the campaign group talked to, accepted that they were subjected to FGM when they were below seven years. It also suggested that 33 per cent believed that FGM has negatively impacted their sexual life while close to 10 per cent mentioned urinary problems, recurring UTIs, burning, and incontinence.
However, 37 per cent of Bohra women extended their support to continuing FGM.
The research also found that majority of Bohras practice Types 1a and 1b FGM which is partial or total removal of the clitoris or clitoral hood than Type 4 which is pricking, piercing and cauterisation of the genital area.
"Anyone who doubts or denies the existence of FGM in India must read this report. By turning a blind eye and doing nothing about FGM, the government is denying women and girls their rights. India must at once pass a law that bans the act of providing FGM," Ranalvi suggested.
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