Case Description

The present writ petition filed by way of Public Interest Litigation seeks a complete ban on the practice of female genital mutilation or "khatna".

Background

The practice female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision, more commonly known as ‘khatna’ involves the removal of either part or all of female genitalia with the aim of regulating female sexuality and moderating sexual desires. FGM is widely practiced among the Dawoodi Bohra community, a sect of Shia Muslims. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified four types of FGM, these being:

  1. Removal of the clitoral hood, the skin around the clitoris with partial or complete removal of the clitoris;
  2. Removal of the labia minor with partial or complete removal  of the clitoris and the labia majora;
  3. Removal of all or part of the labia minor and the labia major and the sticking of a seal across the vagina, leaving a small opening for the passage of urine and menstrual blood (infibulation) and;
  4. Other miscellaneous  modes, including cauterisation of the clitoris, cutting of the vagina (gishiri cutting), and introducing corrosive substances into the vagina to tighten it.

Further, the WHO has classified FGM as a gross violation of human rights of girls and women, for the practice reflects a deep-rooted inequality between sexes and constitutes discrimination against women. FGM has been explicitly banned in the Unites States of America, the United Kingdom, Australia,  several countries in Africa among others  as being violative of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In December 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution on the elimination of FGM.

In India, however, there is no specific law banning the practice of female genital mutilation despite the WHO recognising that the procedure may lead to infections, cysts, infections, infertility and may even result in physical impairments. In 2012, a documentary filed titled “A Pinch of Skin” was released recorded the experience of 20 women of the Dawoodi Bohra community who had been subjected to FGM. Consequent to this there have been increased instances of Bohra women protesting the practice.

The present petition has been filed s a public interest litigation seeking an explicit ban on the practice of cutting female genitalia as the same is violative of the rights of Bohra women and girls, and declare it to be a non-bailable, cognizable and non-compoundable  offence under the Indian Penal Code.

On 08.05.2017,  a Bench comprising of then Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, Justice S K Kaul, and Justice D Y Chandrachud issued notice to the Centre and sought a detailed reply from the States of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi on the issue. The counter affidavit has been filed on behalf of the State of Delhi and the case is pending before the Supreme Court.


Issues

  1. Whether FGM is discriminatory against woman and girls and thus violates Article 14 of the Constitution?
  2. Whether FGM violates the Right to life and bodily autonomy of women and girls of the Dawoodi Bohra community and infringes Article 21 of the Constitution?
  3. Whether FGM is violative of the right to privacy of the girls on whom the procedure is performed at the time f their childhood without their consent?

Latest Hearing


Judgment Pending

Hearing Dated 12.09.2017



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