New Delhi: Masooma Ranalvi, activist who began a campaign to end female genital mutilation in India’s Dawoodi Bohra community, welcomed Union minister Maneka Gandhi’s reported remark that a law would be brought in to end the custom if it is not done voluntarily by its members.
The women and child development minister on Sunday said that she would write to state governments and the Bohra spiritual leader to issue an edict to end female genital mutilation as it was a crime under the Indian Penal Code as well as under the POCSO Act, 2012.
Ms Gandhi also said that if the community leaders don’t respond, she would bring in a law to ban the practise in India.
Ms Ranalvi, 50, who herself was subjected to female genital mutilation in Mumbai when she was seven-years-old, had started a petition on Change.org in December 2015 to end the practice.
She has been fighting not just to end female genital mutilation among the close-knit Dawoodi Bohra community, a Shi’ite Muslim sect of up to 2 million people worldwide that considers the practice a religious obligation, but also for the government to accept that the custom is practised in India.
As part of the practice, which is called Khatna, girls have had either part of the clitoral hood cut and in some
cases girls have had part or all of the clitoris cut.
“I’m jubilant that the minister has finally taken a stand on the issue. Now I want the Census of India to use female genital mutilation as an indicator in their survey so that we get to know the exact number of women who have gone through this,” Ranalvi said.
She said she too had to undergo female genital mutilation as a young girl in unhygienic and clandestine manner.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had asked the government and four states to respond to a petition seeking a ban on the female genital mutilation.
The practice is banned in the UK, the US and Australia. The UNICEF estimates about 200 million girls worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation, which often causes serious physical and psychological problems.