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Women come forward to protest genital mutilation in Muslim sect

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 30th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The mutilation of female genitals in order to curb sexual appetites is a barbaric practice typically performed in rural tribes in Africa and the Middle East/ Members of the Dawoodi Bohras sect, a sub-sect of Ismaili Shia Muslims in India and Pakistan have since come forward to condemn the practice that is still ongoing in their community.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Dawoodi Bohras sect is a tightly knit community of about two million people worldwide. Women in the sect have only begun speaking out against the mutilations over the past several years.   

"Khatna (circumcision) is a tradition the Bohras trace back to their origins in (north) Africa, one they continue with because they see this as an attempt to stay true to their faith," an article in the issue of the popular Indian weekly 'Outlook' says.

"Most Bohra women and men even today would rather keep this practice a secret rather than question a custom that is now universally seen as a gross violation of a woman's body," the article reads.

The World Health Organization defines female genitalia mutilation and cutting as a procedure that "intentionally alters or injures female genital organs for non-medical reasons." As practiced in some African countries, the procedure may involve removal of the entire clitoris and labia.

Persisting in 28 African countries, as well as in some Middle Eastern countries, the practice involves varying degrees of cutting or mutilation. African countries that have banned it include Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Togo, Uganda, Kenya and Egypt.

Bohras insist that their practice is not harmful since it is done with care and moderation, justifying it as a means to curb a woman's sexual drive and keep her chaste.

Dr. Nighat Shah, former president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Pakistan, finds it hard to believe that a community as "progressive and educated" as the Bohras carries out this practice.

"Medically speaking," she explained, "a little snip or clip (of the clitoris) may not affect childbirth, but it may rob the woman of sexual pleasure. It is a very sensitive tissue."

Gynecologist and obstetrician Dr. Shershah Syed finds no medical benefit to support female circumcision. "I am no religious scholar, so if a community believes it is an Islamic injunction, I'd suggest the girls should at least be old enough to understand the reason so that they can make an informed decision."

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