A survey from Canada recently showed that 80 percent of women who belong to the Islam sect of Dawoodi Bohra had their sexual organs mutilated, all in the name of a “peaceful religion”. Two of the study participants said these mutilations happened right in Canada.
Earlier this 2017, in April, federal authorities brought to court Jumana Fakhruddin Nagarwala, an emergency doctor who allegedly specialized in operating on little girls’ genitals in Detroit, Michigan. Nagarwala and the rest of the community – most of them female – who supported this heinous practice, are Dawoodi Bohra Muslims.
In 2016, a Dawoodi Bohra priest was convicted of performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on young girls in Sydney, Australia.
FGM became a criminal offense as aggravated assault in 1997 in Canada. It is usually done to one-year-old girls and varies in gravity from removing the clitoris to total removal of the clitoris and the labia and stitching up the walls of the vulva for only a tiny opening to remain.
Although FGM has been said to be a practice that is connected with the Islam religion for hundreds of years, think tanks, academic institutions, and organizations like the United Nations said there is evidence to believe that other religious groups, such as Christianity, Judaism, and certain African religions, have also engaged in the activity.
Records in Ontario showed that during the past seven years, there had been 308 “repairs of infibulations”, or surgeries that were done to create a vaginal opening where it has been mostly shut.
According to experts, support services for women who have to deal with the physical and psychological effects of FGM are inadequate, to say the least. (Related: UN advisor declared female genital mutilation is nothing more than “gender-egalitarian surgery”.)
There are around 1.5 to two million Dawoodi Bohras all over the world. Their population is concentrated mainly on the west coast of Gujarat and Maharashtra states in India, and in Pakistan.
The sect’s India-based spiritual leader, called the Sayedna, was reported by media as saying in a sermon in April 2016 about FGM: “The act has to happen. If it is a man (male circumcision), then it is right, it can be openly done, but if it is a woman then it must be done discreetly, but then the act has to be done.”
Denials to reports of FGM in Canada
Some people who belong to the sect and reside in Canada do not believe that the practice is still being done because the ritual has been outlawed for a long time now.
One of them is Faizan Ali, a member of the Mississauga congregation. He is supervising the construction of the community’s new 50,000-square-foot mosque. He further added that as far as he knows, the practice of khatna, which is the term that South Asians use for FGM, is not practiced in the Greater Toronto Area, but “if someone is going at it at their own discretion, obviously we cannot control it.”
Dilshad Tavawalla, a lawyer and anti-FGM activist in Toronto, said women who openly oppose FGM, especially those who belong to the sect, are seen as attacking the community and the culture, and therefore receive severe ostracism, even to the extent of family members cutting ties with them, she told TheStar.com.
Ina separate interview, three Dawoodi Bohra women who talked with The Star were subjected to FGM overseas before they went to Canada. They were all taken to a “cutter”, a woman who operates surgically in a non-medical environment such as a kitchen, when they were seven years old by their mothers. The cutter used a razor to operate on their clitorises.
One of the interviewees, who only spoke of this tale for the second time in her life, said, “Even when I think about it, it hurts, noting that after the procedure, the cutter instructed her to sit near the stove and “take in the heat to help the healing”.
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