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Indian Muslim spiritual leader supports barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation

Syedna Muffadal Saifuddin's support has angered activists and many others.

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Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin (2nd R), the new spiritual leader of Dawoodi Bohra Muslims visits the Imam Ali shrine, in Najaf, 160km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, March 1, 2014. Picture taken March 1, 2014. REUTERS/ Ahmad Mousa (IRAQ - Tags: RELIGION)
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By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A speech by the spiritual leader of the Dawoodi Bohra community, in which he appears to be urging followers in India to continue the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), has angered and upset campaigners trying to end the centuries-old practice.

The audio clip of Syedna Muffadal Saifuddin’s speech at a mosque in Mumbai, has been authenticated by several members of the community. According to a transcript, he said: “The act must be done. It needs to be done discreetly when it is a woman, but it needs to be done.”

Calls and e-mails to a spokesman for the Syedna and the administrative office of the leader received no response.

A person described as a close friend of the Syedna family told the Times of India newspaper that the remarks were a “general comment” and that people were “interpreting it differently”.

Campaigners in the city spoke out against the speech.

“The speech is a huge disappointment for us,” said Masooma Ranalvi, who was cut as a seven-year-old and leads an online petition as part of the ‘Speak Out on FGM’ campaign, which has drawn almost 50,000 signatories, including Mia Farrow, who tweeted her support on Thursday.

Also Read:Female genital mutilation among India’s Bohra community/

“Ever since we began the campaign, there has been only silence from the clergy. But now that it’s out in the open, at least there’s no ambiguity about where they stand,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

RELIGIOUS OBLIGATION

Little is known about FGM in India where the ritual is carried out in great secrecy by the close-knit Shi’ite Muslim sect thought to number over 1 million.

FGM, which can cause serious physical and psychological problems, is more commonly linked to African countries which have led international efforts to end the practice.

India is not included on U.N. lists of countries affected by FGM. Campaigners say Dawoodi Bohras are the only Muslim community in South Asia to practise FGM, estimating that up to three quarters of Bohra girls are cut.

Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin of Dawoodi Bohra community meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons
Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin of Dawoodi Bohra community meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

Although it is not mentioned in the Koran, the Bohras consider ‘khatna’ – the removal of part of the clitoris – a religious obligation, and debate on the subject has long been taboo.

But the practice among Indian Dawoodi Bohras hit the headlines in November when a court in Australia found two members of the diaspora community guilty of cutting two girls. A Bohra religious leader was convicted of being an accessory.

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Since then, more than a dozen Bohra communities in Europe and the United States have passed resolutions against the practice.

“The strongest form of opposition to khatna is now coming from within the community,” the non-profit group Sahiyo, focused on ending FGM in India, posted on its website on Friday. “Those opposed to the practice have strong reasons for their views.”

Campaigners will now focus on petitioning the government, said Ranalvi.

“There is hypocrisy in the clergy’s stance, so the government is the most important route open to us now,” she said. “We need them to step in to protect our girls.”

(Reporting by Rina Chandran, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.)

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  • defending truth

    Its not just bohra muslims practice this there are many Muslim, christian, Jews communities in India , iran, africa, and in many parts of the world practise it . So just stop just naming the bohras and making are syedna responsible for what so ever you want to publish without knowing the facts .

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Somalia Calls To Outlaw Female Genital Mutilation

Flavia Mwangovya, End Harmful Practices program manager at Equality Now, said an anti-FGM law would curb the practice.

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Somalia
FILE - A badge reads "The power of labor aginst FGM" is seen on a volunteer during a conference on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation in Cairo, Egypt. VOA

A spate of deaths of young girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) has renewed calls for Somalia to outlaw the tradition.

Four girls, ages 10 and 11, from central and northern Somalia have died in the last three months after having been cut, and seven others are in hospitals, activists said.

“More and more cases of girls who have died or end up seriously injured after FGM are coming out,” said Hawa Aden Mohamed, director of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, a local women’s group in the east African country.

“These cases confirm what we have been saying all along — that FGM kills and that we need a law to stop it,” Mohamed said. “The harm it causes is blatantly clear.”

 

Somalia
A Somali woman walks through a camp of people displaced from their homes elsewhere in the country by the drought, shortly after dawn in Qardho, Somalia, March 9, 2017. VOA

 

An estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide have undergone FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia, the United Nations says.

One of 28 African countries where the tradition is endemic, Somalia has the world’s highest rates of FGM — 98 percent of women between 15 and 49 have undergone the ritual.

Somalia’s constitution prohibits FGM, but efforts to pass legislation to punish offenders have been stalled by parliamentarians afraid of losing voters who view FGM as a part of their tradition.

Government and hospital officials were not immediately available to comment on the deaths or hospital admissions.

The charity Save the Children said it rescued seven girls — aged between 5 and 8 years old — on Sunday from Somalia’s northern Puntland state. The girls had undergone FGM and were bleeding excessively; they are now receiving hospital treatment.

Somalia
Ads Campaign against female genital mutilation Flickr

“I’m afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg as many more cases go unreported,” said Timothy Bishop, country director of Save the Children in Somalia.

Campaigners said Suheyra Qorane Farah, 10, from Puntland died Sunday after contracting tetanus, having undergone FGM on Aug. 29.

Two sisters, Aasiyo and Khadijo Farah Abdi Warsame, age 10 and 11, from the same region bled to death Sept. 11 after visiting a cutter across the border in neighboring Ethiopia.

The death of Deeqa Nuur, 10, in July from severe bleeding following FGM prompted the attorney general to initiate Somalia’s first prosecution against FGM — using existing laws — but the investigation has faced challenges.

Also Read: Every Three Minutes a Teenage Girl is Infected by HIV- UNICEF

Flavia Mwangovya, End Harmful Practices program manager at Equality Now, said an anti-FGM law would curb the practice.

“A specific law can express punishments and specify stiffer penalties, ensure that all accomplices are held accountable, and gives guidance on the kind of evidence needed to prove the crime,” she said. (VOA)