Time for India's Government to Back up its Words with Concrete Action: It Must Ban FGM/Khafz

In recognition of International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October, 2018, we, the undersigned women’s groups and individuals, stand in support of the survivors who are bravely speaking out against the practice, and join them in calling on the Indian Government to take immediate action against the practice of FGM/Khafz. The practice, which aims to suppress the sexuality of women and girls, is discriminatory and violates the rights to autonomy, bodily integrity and equality of the women and girls on whom it is performed.  

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)/Khafz is a violation of the human rights of women and girls, under both international law and the Indian constitution, including the right to bodily integrity. It has no health benefits, and in fact, often has both short-term and long-term health and psychological consequences.

In an ongoing case at the Supreme Court, the judges on the bench have made remarks stating that FGM/Khafz prima facie appears to be a violation of the right to privacy guaranteed by the Constitution, and the bodily integrity of the child. The Court also notes that there seems to be no scientific or medical basis for the practice of FGM/Khafz, which is likely to cause a significant amount of trauma, pain and bleeding. The case has now been referred to a Constitution Bench and is pending before the Court. The Attorney General, on behalf of the government, has argued in Court that FGM/Khafz is already a crime under existing laws, punishable with 7 years’  imprisonment.

The Minister for Women and Child Development, Mrs. Maneka Gandhi has publicly stated that FGM/Khafz is a crime under existing laws, and has asked the religious head of the Bohra community to take measures to put an end to the practice.

It is time for the Government to back up its words with concrete action. It cannot wait for the Supreme Court to issue a verdict. The Government has the responsibility to protect girls from being cut, and to ensure this human rights violation does not continue to take place even after it has publicly recognized that the performance of  FGM/Khafz is a criminal offence under Indian law.

We demand that the Indian Government take the following actions:

  • The Government must collect national-level official statistics estimating prevalence of FGM/Khafz across the country.
  • The Indian Government should pass a separate law that bans FGM/Khafz in India, and makes it a ciminal offence for anyone who performs the procedure of FGM/Khafz, or aids, propagates, abets or procures any person to carry FGM/Khafz.
  • The law should recognize FGM/Khafz as a human rights violation, and a form of gender based violence and child abuse. It should prioritise prevention and awareness generation measures to protect girls and women from FGM/Khafz based on an integrated framework addressing gender based discrimination.
  • Until a separate law is passed on FGM/Khafz, proactive measures should be taken to prosecute instances of FGM/Khafz as criminal offences of hurt, and grievous hurt, under sections 319 to 325 of the Indian Penal Code. However, existing laws fail to recognize FGM/Khafz as a systematic act of violence  imposed as a norm, which is why a stand-alone law dealing with this issue is necessary.
  • The central and respective State governments must issue appropriate orders/directives/guidelines to the police in all States, which provide education and information to law enforcement officials on the existence and effects of FGM/Khafz in India, the applicability of existing criminal laws, and the need to prosecute these offences.
  • The Government should immediately issue guidelines and advisories to all health professionals, noting that FGM/Khafz is a crime under existing laws, and direct them not to carry out the procedure.

 

We encourage all individuals and organizations, both Indian and International, to sign on to this letter by contacting info@wespeakout.org or by retweeting to @SpeakOutonFgm by 31 October, 2018.

 

Signed by:

Masooma Ranalvi, WeSpeakout

Farzana Doctor, WeSpeakout

Zehra Patwa, WeSpeakout

Jaria Hussain-Lala, WeSpeakout

Sakina, WeSpeakout

Syeda Hameed, Women's Rights Activist

Divya Srinivasan, Equality Now

Ashima and Vani, Saheli Women

Jagori

The Alternate Space

Sahiyo

HAQ: Centre for Child Rights
 

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