Female circumcision is an ancient and harmless Islamic practice, Lankan Bohras say

Female circumcision is an ancient and harmless Islamic practice, Lankan Bohras say

Colombo, November 30 (newsin.asia): In the wake of the growing controversy surrounding the practice of female genital cutting among certain Muslim communities in Sri Lanka, a spokesperson for the Dawoodi Bohra community in Sri Lanka, Jamila Husain, told Ceylon Today that media reports in this regard are  “exaggerated beyond imagination.”

She said that the ritual of khatna, which in the case of the Dawoodi Bohra community involves the making of “the mildest of mild cuts in the form of a nick  to the outer foreskin on the top of the clitoris” on a child the age of seven, has been done from generation to generation for centuries since the time of Prophet Mohammed.

“The cut is barely visible to the naked eye. And there is absolutely no bleeding as claimed by the activists,” Husain asserted

Moreover, the practice is sanctioned in the Shariat, although no reference is found in the central Islamic text, the Quran.

Explaining the absence of any mention in the Quran, Husain said that there are many religious beliefs and practices which are not mentioned in the Quran but are found in other texts originating from the time of the founder of Islam and the Imams (religious leaders). The practice of khatna is one such ritual.

The cutting, she explained, is done properly by Muslim medical doctors with experience in this regard at private clinics and hospitals.

“The purpose of circumcision is to keep the vaginal area clean. When there is a slight discharge from the vagina, it tends to go all over the vagina and gets into the foreskin, where the discharge gets crusted and hardened, and cannot be washed off,” Husain said.

She pointed out that the World Health Organization (WHO) has no clinical evidence attesting to the harm done by the khatna ritual as it is practiced by the Dawoodi Bohras.

There are professors in the field of Western medicine who are researching on various positive aspects and uses of the practice, she added.

When queried about claims that the child suffers in the process, Husain said: “This is nonsense. The child barely feels it as it is over within a few seconds. In addition, the entire area is anesthetized with anesthetic cream prior to commencing the procedure. Doctors prescribe no medication for the nick to heal as it heals on its own immediately.”

“Furthermore, the khatna ritual is not compulsory. Just because a member of the community had not gone through it, does not mean that she is  shunned by the community. It is a religious rite, the performance of which depends on the decision of the mother of the child.”

On the issue of whether the prior consent of the child is obtained or not Husain said that the child is told that “a small procedure is to be performed for her own good.”

When asked about Dawoodi Bohra women making submissions against the practice to the Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Gender, Husain said: “If some Dawoodi Bohra women are saying now that they were hurt by the procedure, where were they all these years? If they had a problem in this regard, why hadn’t they spoken to anyone within the community? They had the freedom to do so! Who did they go to instead? They went to the media and to the activists.”

“ It is sad that activists without knowledge of the matter have claimed that the khatna ,as practiced by the Dawoodi Bohras, is one which alternately involves the un-hooding of the clitoris or the chopping off of parts of the female genitalia or the excising of the entire clitoris. This is not so. It is a harmless ritual,” Husain added.

Dawoodi Bohras are a modern, educated community which  believes in gender equality, who will not indulge in any harmful practice or ritual.

She also pointed out that there are no Dawoodi Bohras in Eastern Sri Lanka contrary to claims in the media.

A statement made in the media that girls below the age of eight are being dragged off to have the khatna ritual performed on them is a “blatant lie” which the Bohras condemn vehemently, she said.

“If the ritual or procedure is performed in the correct way as prescribed by religion, nothing will go wrong,” she asserted.

Husain said that if the Minister of Justice, who is scheduled to meet a group of victims from the same community to discuss the issue in parliament next week, raises the matter with the Dawoodi Bohra community, the latter will engage in cordial discussions in this regard, and explain that the practice is not what it is being made out to be.