India’s National Commission for Women (NCW) announced their support against “barbaric” female genital mutilation (FGM) by backing a campaign. This is the first time the organization has officially supported the ban on the age-old ritual in India.
FGM is a practice known to cause severe psychological and physical problems in women, and is commonly linked to African countries. International efforts have led the way in stopping the procedure across the continent, Reuters reports.
In India, however, little is known about FGM. It is carried out in secret by the tightly-knit group Dawoodi Bohra – a Shi’ite Muslim community with over a million members. Those campaigning estimate that three-fourths of Bohra girls have been cut.
On Monday, International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, three Change.org petitions were handed to Lalitha Kumaramangalam, chair of the NCW. Over 85,000 people signed the petitions that called for a law banning FGM.
This is a barbaric act and many countries are banning it. Just because something is a social norm does not make it right. These are manifestations of different patriarchal norms.
She added, “NCW will support all measures to end FGM, including steps to advocate for a law and to do advocacy among the community.”
The commission gives recommendations to the government regarding policies on women’s rights. It aims to give voice to women’s issues, from sexual exploitation to employment rights.
Masooma Ranalvi, founder of Speak Out FGM – a group from the Bohra sect that started the petitions – said the NCW’s backing was important, as it is the first official support for criminalizing FGM in India.
Ranalvi said, “This is a starting point for us. She (Kumaramangalam) is the first official from the government who has spoken in our favor.” Ranalvi, who was cut at the age of seven years old, added, “With the NCW chair on our side we hope we can strengthen our armor for the legal and political battles ahead.”
Up to 200 million women and girls have undergone FGM worldwide, across Africa and in some parts of the Middle East and Asia.