FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION: A REGRESSIVE TRADITION WHICH TRIUMPHS LAW
Updated: Oct 13
Female genital mutilation is a tradition followed since time immemorial in various corners of the world. Its actual origin cannot be traced exactly but its horror stories can be felt with chills. It is a cruel practice of cutting the clitoral hood before puberty with a belief that this could prevent pre-marital and extra marital affairs. It is one of the cruellest practices that shows gender inequality and a desperate try to establish patriarchy. Despite this being such an inhuman act, it is sad that it is still not illegal in various countries, like India.
In India, besides the lack of legislation, there is no official data regarding this practice. It is relevant in Bohra communities who consider clitoris as a “lump of immoral flesh”. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution guarantees right to equality and the right to live with dignity, but these fundamental rights are side-lined when a child of seven gets cut and screams in pain and lives in agony for the rest of her life. The veil of secrecy of these practices contributes to the plight of innocent girls. Supreme Court in Vishaka v. the State of Rajasthan emphasizing the importance of international-conventions stated, “In cases involving Human Rights, the Courts must be alive to the international-conventions and instruments to give effect to their principles such as the CEDAW-1979, etc.-directing all state parties to take appropriate measures to prevent such discrimination”. Clearly, International interventions are very much required in this case. The journey to criminalize it has been long and a hard one but the results are still farfetched. The superstition is stronger than the echoes of the screams of the victims. It is well established through Shirur-Mutt case and subsequent judgements that Article 25 & 26 guarantee fundamental-right to religion but except when it is found to run counter to public order, health, morality, and other Constitutional mandates.
It is high time to call ends to this inhuman practice in the name of culture and religion. Surveys show most of the women were forced by their family and the cutting is performed by blades and knifes by members of the community. This leads to physical threat to the girls due to infection or excessive bleeding and the shadows of trauma lasts a lifetime. This deprives a woman from achieving sexual satisfaction as the clitoris are cut off and this leads to regression and low confidence of these victims. The IPC and POCSO must recognize this practice and severe punishment should be levied. There is a long road to walk until we achieve that but the fight is still on with a hope that a ray of sunshine by the law will brighten up the lives of girls who have been a victim, is a victim or is a targeted victim in the future. It is a fight for justice, equality and dignity against the deep rooted traditions and the patriarchal society. The voice is one and demand same. Here’s the question, will law prevail and triumph over tradition? Or will tradition be the veil to camouflage justice?