Khatna is a ritual of female genital mutilation practiced by Dawoodi Bohra Muslims.
In addition to the monthly pains, every woman must withstand due to menstruation cycles, there is an additional trauma added to it in the Bohra community. Imagine you are taken to a dark room in an unknown a building by your mother or grandmother. Suppose a pair of unknown hands is holding you to the ground. Suppose someone is pulling your underwear down. Suppose you see an old woman with blades or knife in her hands. Someone touching your private parts that no one ever did. And suddenly you experience a sharp pain.
This is the cruelty of the Bohra Muslim community yes, we are talking about Khatna or Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) a brutal practice among Dawoodi Bohra Muslims. Khatna is a practice in which the clitoral hood or the whole clitoris is being chopped by the untrained midwives in the name of religion and blind beliefs. Young girls aged just six and seven are being cut in India. They are not from the tribal societies but the rather forward thinking, considered to be progressive, Bohra community living in Mumbai.
The Dawoodi Bohras are a sect within the Ismailism branch of Shia Islam, mostly residing in Yemen, East Africa, Pakistan, and India. The Bohra Muslims describe female circumcision as an act of ‘religious purity’. They claim that the main reason for female khatna is hygiene or taharat. They consider the external female genital or the clitoral hood as a ‘sinful lump of flesh’ or ‘haraam ki boti’. It is also considered by a few members of Bohra Muslim community that the female khatna serves to increase the radiance on the face of the woman and the pleasure with that of her husband, which has been scientifically proven to be untrue. By ensuring that a woman is sexually satisfied in her marriage, Khatna will ensure that she does not stray out of marriage.
Several Bohra women who are in support of this brutal ritual claim that the khatna is done to increase sexual stimulation and maintains the genital hygiene. They relate the ritual with the clitoral unhooding procedure done in the west. The most common reasons given by the Bohra community were that:
It is a religious obligation
It is a tradition which has been practiced for generations
It is done to curb a girl’s sexuality, which according to orthodox belief is a good thing.
Several reports and medical professionals have reported that this practice leads to problems in the sex life of the woman. Several women have come forth to confess that the practice has led them to experience pain during sex. There are also reports of several infections and a few cases also report death due to excessive bleeding.
For a very long time, this barbaric practice of Khatna or FGM has remained a secret and taboo to being discussed. Lately, however, several women have started to speak against this mindless ritual. Many of them are the victims of this cruel practice and are demanding an end to FGM. Several online petitions are being made to the law to put an end to female khatna. Please join the petition and support to put an end to this practice. Such inhuman rituals can only be stopped when you speak about it. Like some of these brave women have:
Masooma Ranalvi who was cut 42 years ago, is among 17 other women who have decided to come out in the open and create awareness about Female Genital Mutilation prevalent in India.
She says “My mum told me to come; I’ll take you out and buy you chocolates. I happily went with her. She took me to Bohri Mohalla (in Mumbai), a cluster where 90% Bohras live. We went into this dark decrepit building. I remember being taken into a room. The curtains were drawn. She said to lie down. Like an obedient child, I lay. My grandmother was holding my hands. An old woman pulled down my pants… I started crying. My grandmother said don’t worry, it will be over in a jiffy. I shrieked in pain… I experienced a sharp, shooting pain and she put some black powder there… I came home and cried and cried and cried…”
Aarefa Johari, a young journalist, was also cut in her childhood. She is now a vocal voice against the inhuman practice.
“There was pain and I cried. I was aware that there is a thing called khatna and the main intention is to curb sexual desire… The first target of my anger was my mother,” said Aarefa. She further added that most women we spoke with blamed their mothers initially. Till they realized they too were victims of the same mindless tradition.
“I don’t think I ever enjoyed sex in my marriage. I often wonder what it would have been like if I hadn’t been cut. The sad part is I will never know,” a mother from the Bohra community of Mumbai said. The fact is, the Bohra community is known to be a more “open” Muslim community than most others, as the girls of this community can get an education and travel if they wish to.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies FGM as a violation of the human rights of girls and women. The saddening part to this truth is that it is a practice being done to women by other women to young girls aged six and seven who do not even understand sex or the functions of various genital organs. Such ideas and beliefs have no place in today’s world. No one has any right to curb or enhance a woman’s sexual desires or tell her to be chaste. The clitoral hood is for a good purpose as it protects the clitoris form over-stimulation and injuries. It is not just a physical pain for a woman but a mental one too which remains with them for their life.