A recent study by Sahiyo has just revealed how widespread a problem female genital cutting (FGC) may actually be in India. Female genital cutting is a practice where the external genitalia of a woman or girl is cut, or fully or partially removed. It’s practiced amongst a number of different religious and cultural communities across the world, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa region. Until now, it was generally believed that FGC was practiced in India only by some members of the Dawoodi Bohra community, but this new investigation reveals that the practice could be on the rise in different parts of the country, particularly in Kerala.
Sahiyo’s investigation saw reporters speaking to doctors in a clinic in Kozhikode, where the reporter posed as a woman who had been asked to practice FGC by her mother-in-law. The clinic told the reporter that they do perform sunnath, as it’s also referred to, on both men and women, and that the practice involved cutting of the clitoral hood, which was supposed to increase sexual desire and be “good for married life”. The doctor continued that she advises women to undergo it during post-marriage counselling, as she believes that marital problems are solved by having a better sex life through FGC. It’s pretty bizarre rhetoric, since having parts of your genitalia cut sounds like the last thing that would increase how much you enjoy sex.
The doctors encouraged Sahiyo’s reporters to spread the word that they perform the procedure to female relatives, and it does seem to be word of mouth that gets them their customers: the clinic’s website, for example, only mentions that they perform male circumcision, not female. It’s also pretty alarming that according to the doctor at the Kozhikode clinic, this practice, which is being cracked down upon by governments and organisations all over the world, is actually on the rise in Kerala, as opposed to being an old tradition on the decline.
Sahiyo adds, importantly, that discussions around FGC shouldn’t degenerate into mindless Islamophobia: FGC is not an Islamic practice, and has it’s roots as a pre-Quranic tradition. The fight against FGC is a fight for the human rights of women and children, not one against a particular religion.
You can read Sahiyo’s full report on their investigation here.