The Supreme Court on 9th July announced that it has accepted the petition seeking a ban on female genital mutilation and scheduled the hearing on July 16. It all started when on May 8 court hearing, the court decided to look into the issue, calling it “extremely important and sensitive.”

Attorney General K K Venugopal informed the Chief Justice Dipak Misra that the government wants to ban the practice where a girl child is forced to undergo genital mutilation or circumcision. The attorney general also pointed out that the practice violates fundamental human rights and has severe repercussions on women’s health.  Petition to seek a ban on FNG was filed by advocate Sunita Tiwari, however senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who is also a Congress Leader, appeared for Dawoodi Bohra community justified the practice, saying,  “It is an essential aspect of Islam and cannot be subjected to judicial scrutiny.”  Singhvi made the case for FGM in the community as an accepted religious practice, referring to the practice of male circumcision (khatna) in Islam and that it has been allowed in all countries.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, the lawyer and Congress leader is appearing for the Association called as Dawoodi Bohra Women’s association for religious freedom, which calls FGM as harmless and stood against the demand of ban on FGM, citing article 25, seeking the right to practice their religion. Samina Kanchwala, secretary of the association said ‘Firstly, what we practice should not be misrepresented as FGM. It s a harmless practice executed in keeping with our religious beliefs and is not similar to male circumcision. The later is very invasive. Therefore we seek right to follow our religious practice and nobody should deny us the freedom given by Constitution under article 25.’

The court, however, responded, saying “Why and how should the bodily integrity of an individual be part of the religion and its essential practice,” further pointing that the practice violated the “integrity” of a girl child’s body. “Why should anybody else have any control over the genitals of an individual,” it said.

The practice violates, “UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights of which is India is a signatory”, the plea said, adding the practice caused “permanent disfiguration to the body of a girl child.” “The practice of ‘khatna’ or ‘FGM’ or ‘Khafd’ also amounts to causing inequality between the sexes and constitutes discrimination against women. Since it is carried out on minors, it amounts to serious violation of the rights of children as even minors have a right of security of person, right to privacy, bodily integrity and the freedom from cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment,” the plea added.

Important point to note is, a total of 27 African countries have already banned this practice among other European and North American countries. In India a network of survivors, ‘WeSpeakOut’, is demanding ban on this inhumane practice. ‘WeSpeakOut’ is an intervener in the PIL in the Supreme Court seeking a ban on FGM.

Welcoming the court’s observation that no religious practice could violate the integrity of human body, ‘WeSpeakOut urged the government to make necessary changes in the law and make a policy to prevent FGM.

Earlier this year in February, the network released a study titled ‘The Clitoris Hood A Contested Site’, in which 75% of the girls in the study were subjected to FGM, of which 97% remembered it as a painful experience. 33% of same group reported that it had a negative impact on their normal sexual life.