Hearing on a PIL filed by petitioner Sunita Tiwari, with the support of several gynaecologists and women organisations, the Supreme Court today slammed the practice of Female Genital Mutilation practised by the Dawoodi Bohra community in India. According to reports, a bench comprising of CJI Deepak Mishra, Justice DY Chandrachud and justice AM Khanwaliker today stated that the bodily integrity of a woman cannot be subjected to any religious practice.
Hearing a PIL seeking a ban on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) practiced within the Dawoodi Bohra Community in India, the Supreme Court on Monday remarked that the bodily integrity of a woman could not be infringed without her consent… https://t.co/eusIpEEy3V pic.twitter.com/dFEo2SjjCB
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) July 9, 2018
The Supreme Court bench agreed with the petitioner Sunita Tiwari on the issue that the practice is covered under the POCSO Act, 2012 under which, touching the genitals of a girl under 18 is an offence. Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing on behalf of the government of India has stated earlier that the government is seeking a complete ban over the practice and no girl child should undergo such trauma in the name of religion.
Congress leader and advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing on behalf of the Dawooodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom, argued in favour of the practice. He stated that the Bohra community practises female circumcision and it is a 1000-year-old practice. He further added that it is an essential and integral practice for the community based on religious grounds.
Appeared in case of #femalecircumcision FC of #dawoodibohrawomen in SC. Wrong penumbrical prejudice by calling it #FGM ie female genital mutilation, which is barbaric practice condemned by Bohris. Compulsory male circumcision in Islam upheld on religious grounds; why FC objected?
— Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) July 9, 2018
Attorney General KK Venugopal reportedly countered the argument stating that even ‘sati’ was an ancient practice and any practice by a community on religious grounds are subject to public order and morality.
Petitioner Sunita Tiwari, through counsel Indira Jaising, has argued that the UN Convention of the Rights of Child has categorised 4 types of FGM, from which the Bohras in India practice the type-1, which involves cutting the prepuce of girl children usually around 7-8 years of age. Her PIL further stated that a UN resolution passed in 2012 has denounced FGM in all its forms and it is signed by 194 countries around the world, including India. Unfortunately, India has no specific laws against it yet and hence certain religious groups are promoting it.
Tiwari’s counsel Indira Jaising also reportedly argued that it is more a cultural practice rather than religious because the Bohras are the only Muslim community in India who practice it. Upon Singhvi’s argument that it is ‘circumcision’ and not mutilation and should be protected under the religious freedom granted, AG Venugopal reportedly retorted that male circumcision is done on infants and as there are even medical benefits attributed, female genital mutilation cannot be compared to it and FGM leads to several physical and psychological complications. Indira Jaising also reportedly argued that FGM causes girls undergoing FGM suffer from a trauma that continues in adulthood.
Around 5 lakh Bohras live in India. According to reports, almost 90% of Bohra women undergo the painful practice at 7-8 years of age. The FGM is almost always performed by women of the community or non-medically trained midwives. It not only causes pain and humiliation risking the hygiene and health of the girl but also causes a lasting memory of the ordeal, adding to long-term trauma.
The Supreme Court bench has deferred the matter to July 16 for further hearing. Singhvi has stated that the issue, like triple talaq, nikah halala and polygamy, should be referred to a five-judge constitutional bench.
It is only ironic that while one Congress leader Singhvi defends the barbaric practice, another has seen preaching against it.
Congress had maintained shameful double standards during the matter of Triple Talaq too. They had created hurdles in the Rajya Sabha where numbers were in their favour. Sonia Gandhi was holidaying in Goa when the bill was being discussed in the parliament. While the party uses ‘women empowerment’ as an election tool, its leaders are often seen supporting misogynistic practices in the name of appeasement.