By Soyra Gune
On 8th December, 30 women from the Dawoodi Bohra community in Mumbai petitioned the United Nations to recognise India as a country where Female Genital Cutting (FGC), or Khatna, is practised. FGC is often conducted in non-sterile environments with no medical supervision or form of pain relief has no health benefits — according to the WHO, and the United Nations, 200 million girls in 30 countries have undergone khatna.
Just before this petition, however, on 5th December, Sahiyo, a Mumbai-based organisation that has been campaigning against FGC, and Love Matters India, published a video by Priya Goswami, an independent National Award winning filmmaker, called A Small Nick or Cut, they Say… The video has women of the Dawoodi Bohra community talking about being made to undergo khatna.
“A cut that pierced my life. A small nick, just a piece of skin, they say. No more, no less. How does it change anything?” the video begins, before women who have undergone khatna go on to tell us that it does matter. Goswami seems to have tried to capture a range of experiences—women who felt pain when khatna was performed and women who didn’t; and women who say that FGC can neither curb nor enhance their sexuality.
They also say repeatedly that they neither want to be called victims nor survivors — “I am not speaking out as a reminder of my past but for a hope future,” says one of the women. Interestingly, the video also deals with how the women struggled to look at their loved ones the same way, after they made them undergo khatna. “What is the need?” the women ask at the end of the video — “No more.”
Goswami’s first film, A Pinch of Skin, was also about FGC. She told DNA “We also want to give a face (or in this case, faces) to the movement. This is not about someone anonymously making a plea for the practice to stop. This about real people, in flesh and blood marking a conversation (which was until a few years ago, a taboo), with their own voice of resistance.”