The Horror That is Female Genital Mutilation
Female Genital Mutilation also known as 'khatna' continues to be practices in 30 countries, including India
In around 30 countries, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been put through the horror of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), also known as 'khatna'. It is not just a practice which dangerously mutilates a woman's genitalia, but also scars her mind and soul. It is a crude and painful act mostly performed by midwives using unsterilised blades and other tools.
Twenty-four-year old Bindu (name changed), hails from a small village called Aspur Devsara, in Uttar Pradesh. She was forced to undergo the 'khatna' ritual when she was just eight. "I can still sense the pain, humiliation and anger embedded within me while I was laying naked in front of 12-15 unknown women" she recalled the horror.
Like Bindu, many women have experienced this dreadful practice and are still living with the unending nightmare that the mutilation leaves them with. According to World Health Organisation(WHO), more than 200 million girls and women alive today have gone through FGM in 30 countries including Africa and Asian countries.
This horrendous practice of mutilating a girl's genitalia, is still practiced in several countries including India. It involves the partial or absolute removal of the external female genitalia. Generally, it is performed when a girl turns seven or eight years of age.
"The idea is to suppress the sexual desires of a girl before she hits puberty. It is a belief that a family's 'honour' lies in the daughters' vagina. They should be thus kept away from any sexual activities, and this way, they are considered 'pure'," said Bindu.
The United Nations has declared female genital mutilation a human rights violation but there is no ban in India. According a report in The Guardian, 75 percent of FGM cases have been reported in the Bohra Muslim community in India. The survey was conducted with respondents in communities across the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Kerala.
There is no medical evidence which claims that Female Genital Mutilation is beneficial for health in any way. Dr Sheetal Agarwal, gynaecologist and laparoscopic surgeon from Apollo Spectra said that Female Genital Mutilation leads to "severe pain and blood loss, which can be fatal." The survivor can also become infertile.
Women who have been forced to undergo FGM can also suffer from depression, anxiety and major psychological problems. "The women who undergo this rigorous process often doubt their self worth. While having intercourse with their spouse, they suffer from discomfort. All of this makes their emotional and mental health fragile," added Dr Agarwal.
"There is a lack of education, this is why FGM has not ended. Ironically, many communities keep practising FGM in shady places. They claim that they don't want young girls to have intercourse before marriage," said Dr Agarwal. She emphasised that FGM is a product of "the narrow mindsets of our society and their backward thought process".
In 2017, Sahiyo, a non-governmental organisation working towards eradicating female genital mutilation, released a report bringing out the prevalence of the practice in India.
Tanya Narula, a Delhi-based counsellor said "female genital mutilation will uphold the chauvinistic perspective and patriarchy. FGM leaves women shattered. Is this how women are supposed to be treated?"
Dr Pooja Choudhary, an obstetrician-gynaecologist who practises in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh says FGM is practised mostly in rural areas.
Forty-year-old Jamna, who is married and has a four-year-old son is also a victim of FGM. She has been suffering severe pain ever since she became sexually active. When her stitches were opened, Jamna recalls that she "went numb and couldn't walk properly for months".
She couldn't bear a child for almost 10 years. "I had severe complications when I was expecting my baby. The grief I went through while I was delivering the baby cannot be put into words. Post delivery, I became fragile and timid," she said.
Bindu and Jamna were both mutilated because of the pressure put on their mothers by older women of their community. Both the women have blamed their mothers, who in turn were also forced to undergo this so-called 'tradition'.