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The apex court on Tuesday (July 31) was informed by the Senior Counsel Shyam Divan that the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Dawoodi Bohra community in India was illegal, citing various UN reports which mandates elimination of FGM.

The bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud was informed by Divan that a resolution has been passed by the General Assembly mandating elimination of FGM.

Divan further cited a WHO report of 2018 which stated how FGM harms a woman’s body (as well as of girl child) for their all round development.

“As per the report, FGM violates well established human rights principles such as right to life, rights of a child, right to live a torture free life, etc. FGM creates a cultural pressure upon the parents. The practice of FGM is a gross violation of human rights,” Divan said.

Divan further referred to POCSO Act stating that any kind of penetration with any kind of object in a woman’s vagina will amount to an offence under the Act. All kinds of FGM are irreversible, harmful to the girl child, Divan said.

Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Dawoodi Bohra community countered the arguments of Divan and said: “FGM done in Bohra community is different from the one that is done in Africa. In Africa it is female circumcision. It is a barbaric act.”

Further enumerating the merits of female circumcision, Singhvi said: “30 percent of the global population, because of Islam, follows this practice of circumcision. Male circumcision has medical benefits, it is an established fact and is accepted under Article 14. Even non muslim women in the West, are getting clitoral hood surgeries done.”

Interjecting this, Justice Chandrachud says but that is done with their consent.

Singhvi further added: “Dawoodi Bohra community has seven pillars to follow, out of which one of them is female circumcision which is a sign of purity.

“No psychological harm is done by female circumcision as per the verdict of Australian High Court. Female circumcision is done by highly qualified people who’ve done this for years after years. The only people present are the mother and midwife and now doctor, that is the Standard Operating Procedure.”

Justice Chandrachud questioned what if the child is resisting? That will cause trauma to the girl child. What is the scientific justification for female circumcision?

Singhvi replied: “Male circumcision is performed within seven days of the birth of the child. Female circumcision is done at the age of seven years.”

Singhvi will continue his arguments on August 9.

—India Legal Bureau


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