After supporting call for ban on practice, govt’s lawyer wants matter to be heard by constitution bench to decide on issue of religious rights and freedom.

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has reversed its stated position on the custom of female genital mutilation (FGM), practised by the Dawoodi Bohra community, raising doubts over its claims to ensure justice for Muslim women.

Arguing in the Supreme Court Monday, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, representing the Centre, said the matter should be referred to a constitution bench to decide on the issue of religious rights and freedom.

He had previously supported seeking a ban on the practice saying the act is clearly a crime under Indian laws.

In a complete volte-face, the government threw its weight behind the Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom (DBWRF), a socio-religious group seeking continuance of the FGM practice.


Also read: Activists accuse Modi govt of doublespeak on triple talaq and female circumcision


The turnaround comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with the spiritual head of the Dawoodi Bohra community, Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin, who has supported the practice of FGM, at a 14 September event in Indore.

The practice, known as khafz in India, involves the cutting of the genitals of a girl child for non-medical reasons.

“The question which comes to our mind then is the Bohra beti not important and should a practice like FGM be allowed to continue?” read a statement by WeSpeakOut, one of the petitioners seeking a ban on the practice.

“Why has the PM who says he is so concerned about issues of Muslim women not raised the issue of FGM with the Syedna? And why has his government chosen to dither and delay any action aimed at banning this practice, rather than taking immediate steps to protect the young girls who are being cut every day?”

‘Re-framing the issue’

“The referral is an attempt to re-frame the issue from one of FGM being a violation of constitutional and human rights to that of a right to continue this discriminatory practice under the garb of religious freedom,” said the statement by WeSpeakOut.

“It is also clearly aimed at delaying a verdict in this case, in which arguments had already been extensively heard by the three-judge bench before which it was pending,” WeSpeakOut added.

But this isn’t the first time the government has gone back on its own stand on the issue.

In May 2017, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi came out in full support of women seeking a ban on the practice. In an interview, Gandhi said the practice is a criminal offence and if the Dawoodi Bohra community doesn’t end it voluntarily, the government would bring in a law to end it.

While there was no word from the WCD minister on the issue after her statement, the ministry in an affidavit said there is neither a prevalence of FGM in India today nor any studies on the same.


Also read: The Supreme Court petition on FGM will get a boost if victims join, lawyer says


The DBWRF, which supports the practice, argues that khafz as practised in India is fundamentally different from FGM practiced in other parts of the world since the former involves a small nick on the skin of the prepuce, which is the fold of skin surrounding and protecting the head of the clitoris.

According to the DBWRF, a scratch on an arm cannot be compared to an amputation, and the two practices should not be mistaken as being the same.

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Both male and female circumscision are painful , non-medical and non consent. So if u want to ban it than ban both and if u dont have guts for it than keep your nose out of it!

  2. So, despite all the tall talk about caring for the Muslim women, is this the Shah Bano moment for the BJP?

    This practice of female organ mutilation is mentioned nowhere in the Quran. (Nor is the head-to-toe veil recommended in the holy book, for that matter). Both these practices show male Muslim arrogance which is pampered by all politicians. Congress and the BJP are brothers in this.

  3. First of all no genitals are cut in khafz.
    Bohras dont perform FGM .
    AND meeting when did that happen stop booking people . The whole event video is online .
    A defamation case should be filed against you people for speaking fake news .

  4. Majority bohras welcome the 5 Bench proposal by SC of India. We are sure that our Indian constituition will uphold our right to adhere to our religios tenets.
    Western influence are known to change their stance at the drop of a hat and #WHO are not fool proof. #WHO was against Male Circumcision and now they are in its favour.
    We stand solid as rock since more than 1400 years to stand by our shariat of Khafz which is not at all FGM.
    Rather even #WHO admits there is no study that reveals harm from.khafz but yet has created a goof in ots blanket inclusion to caused disdain and a lot of irreparable damage and harm to our peace loving bohra community.
    WeSpeakOut and Sahiyos activists have inflated khafz as FGM. #FCisnotFGM. These activists are far away from religion and also from the good of bohra community at large leave alone our young girls. They have furthered their journo careers with this issue.
    @Dbwrf is the majority of bohra voice and its time we stand up against the western influences to rob us of our religious rights and impose a ban on our right to choose. Bohra women are well educated and empowered decision makers who do not identify with Ranalvis nor Sahiyos who have mixed up severe forms of FGM.
    Bohras condemn FGM too but khafz is just a nick’ rather less invasive than male circumcision. FC is gender equal to MC.

    The activists are no authorities on bohra religion and its needless to say they have zero’ knowledge of it. Thus we majority do not identify with them to speak for us.
    We have our own voice in @Dbwrf

  5. It is very clear ‘khafz’ done is not FGM then why again and again the issue is taken up it is just like tell lies again and again till it appears as true

  6. Since “ThePrint” is wanting to act in favor of terrorists by removing posts about the involvement of the “Progressives” in various acts of terrorism and voilence in India and abroad, should we assume that “ThePrint” is supporting terrorists and acting against the country?

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