New Delhi: The practice of female genital mutilation of minor girls of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community today came under the scanner of the Supreme Court, which termed the issue as “extremely important and sensitive”. A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar sought replies from four union ministries, including the Woman and Child Development and states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi, where Dawoodi Bohras, who are Shia Muslims, predominantly reside. “This is an extremely important and sensitive matter,” the bench, which also comprised Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul, said, adding that the matter “will take time” and posted the PIL for hearing after the summer vacation.
The bench was hearing a PIL, filed by Delhi-based lawyer Sunita Tiwari, seeking a direction to the Centre and the states to “impose a complete ban on inhuman practice” of ‘khatna’ or “female genital mutilation” (FGM) throughout the country. The plea has sought a direction to make FGM an offence on which the law enforcement agencies can take cognizance on their own. It has also sought to make the offence “non- compoundable and non-bailable” with provision for harsh punishment.
Ministries of Law and Justice, Social Justice and Empowerment have also been made parties in the plea which referred to various conventions of the United Nations, to which India is a signatory. The practice of female genital mutilation resulted in “serious violations of basic fundamental rights of the victims who in these cases are minors,” the plea said. FGM is performed “illegally upon girls (between five years and before she attains puberty)” and is against the “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 that 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 said.
“It is a ritual performed on every girl child within the Dawoodi Bohra religious community without any medical reason and does not have any reference in the Quran. “It violates the rights of the child and human rights. It also violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is a crime in the Unites States of America under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 and now a crime in Australia and some other countries as well,” it claimed. Many countries have banned the practice and they include Australia, USA and the United Kingdom, it said, adding “there is no law in India banning FGM or Khatna to declare it illegal.”