Dawoodi Bohra activists jubilant over Union Minister Maneka Gandhi’s plan to abolish female genital mutilation

Female genital mutilation is a serious criminal offence under IPC and POSCO Act, 2012 inviting an imprisonment of not less than 10 years and may extend to imprisonment for life

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Dawoodi Bohra activists are “absolutely delighted” over the statement of Union Minister for Women and Child Development (WCD), Maneka Gandhi that the central government will pass a law to prohibit female genital mutilation (FGM) unless the community’s headpriest [Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin] voluntarily issues an advisory to the community to banish the practice.

Gandhi according to a report today in the Hindustan Times has described the practice of female genital mutilation (FMG, also referred to as female genital cutting, khatna) as a “criminal offence”.

On May 8, the Supreme Court has issued notices to the Centre and four state governments in response to a PIL seeking the outlawing of the shameful practice.

It is reliably understood that the WCD ministry has sent advisories to state governments pointing out that FMG is a violation of sections of the IPC and the POSCO Act.

Also read: "I do not believe in your wisdom and power anymore": A Dawoodi Bohra woman's missive to Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin

“We will write to respective state governments and Syedna, the Bohra high priest, shortly to issue an edict to community members to give up FGM voluntarily as it is a crime under Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act, 2012. If the Syedna does not respond then we will bring in a law to ban the practice in India,” Gandhi told the Hindustan Times.

“This is fantastic news and absolutely welcome”, the convener of the group ‘Speak Out Against FGM’, Masooma Ranalvi told Sabrang India. The group had recently launched an online petition calling upon the WCD minister to bring a law banning the practice.

“We are very excited and very happy”, enthused Arefa Johari of Sahiyo, an organization of Dawoodi Bohra women campaigning to end the practice of what it prefers to call female genital cutting (FGC).

Also read: SC Issues Notice On PIL Seeking Complete Ban On Female Genital Mutilation

“This is something we have been working at for a very long time and we heartily welcome the minister’s statement”, Johari added.

Ranalvi told SabrangIndia her group has been holding talks with the minister on how to banish the FGM practice which is “un-constitutional, against human rights and against existing Indian laws of the land”: Indian Penal Code (IPC) and The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POSCO Act).   

Johari stated that individual members of Sahiyo who were victims of FGC had also made representations before the WCD ministry.

Also read: Bohra women want an end to the practice of “female genital cutting": Sahiyo report

“We hope that Syedna saheb (head priest of the global Dawoodi Bohra community will abide by the laws of the land and issue an advisory to all his Indian followers to give up the practice of FGM just as he has already issued advisories to all Dawoodi Bohras living in the West,” she told Sabrang India.

Ranalvi categorically asserted that what is referred to as khatna or khahafz is not “female circumcision” as the community’s priests pretend it to be but falls within the Type 1 and Type 4 categories of FMG as described by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Also read: Jain fasting or Bohra female circumcision, why should children bear the brunt of religious fervour?

It may be noted that FMG is considered a serious criminal act with severe consequences both under IPC and POSCO.

Section 326 of IPC: “Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means—Whoever, except in the case provided for by section 335, voluntarily causes grievous hurt by means of any instrument for shooting, stabbing or cutting, or any instrument which, used as a weapon of offence, is likely to cause death, or by means of fire or any heated substance, or by means of any poison or any corrosive substance, or by means of any explosive substance, or by means of any substance which it is deleterious to the human body to inhale, to swallow, or to re­ceive into the blood, or by means of any animal, shall be pun­ished with 1[imprisonment for life], or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”.
Section 327 of IPC: “Voluntarily causing hurt to extort property, or to constrain to an illegal act.—Whoever voluntarily causes hurt, for the purpose of extorting from the sufferer, or from any person inter­ested in the sufferer, any property or valuable security, or of constraining the sufferer or any person interested in such suf­ferer to do anything which is illegal or which may facilitate the commission of an offence, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine”.
Section 9 (h) (i) and (j) of the POSCO Act define Aggravated Sexual Assault as:
“(h) whoever commits sexual assault on a child using deadly weapons, fire, heated substance or corrosive substance; or
“(i) whoever commits sexual assault causing grievous hurt or causing bodily harm and injury or injury to the sexual organs of the child; or
“(j) whoever commits sexual assault on a child, which —
“(i) physically incapacitates the child or causes the child to become mentally ill as defined under clause (l) of section 2 of the Mental Health Act, 1987 or causes impairment of any kind so as to render the child unable to perform regular
tasks, temporarily or permanently”.
The punishment for aggravated sexual assault under the Act is “rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than 10 years but which may extend to imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine”.
In the past year members of the Dawoodi Bohra community held responsible for FMG have been jailed in Australia last year. In USA last month federal authorities have made arrests and the accused face prosecution for performing, aiding or abetting FMG.



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