Ending FGC Amongst Dawoodi Bohra Communities in India and Abroad

By: Mariya Taher
Co-founder of Sahiyn

My name is Mariya Taher and at the age of seven years old I underwent female genital cutting (FGC). I was born in the United States, but taken back to India to have it performed. At that time, there was no federal legislation in place in the United States to have prevented it from occurring to me. The U.S. didn’t pass any time of ban criminalizing FGC until 1996.

I’m not the only woman of Indian descent to have undergone FGC, but until a few years ago, it was rarely known to the rest of the world. Today, you can google FGC and the Dawoodi Bohra community (the ethnic/religious community) I was raised in and you will find a plethora of news articles on FGC. The silence on this form of gender violence occurring in India has finally been broken. Yet, the struggle to end the practice from continuing to the next generation of seven year olds is still very real.

As a result of being exposed to FGC, and because I am one of the many women who have chosen to raise their voice to speak out against FGC, I have been able to witness the ongoing movement for the past ten years.

In 2015, I, along with four other women who had been actively advocating for the end of FGC in our own ways joined forces to form the first NGO in India working on the issue of FGC amongst Dawoodi Bohra communities in India and diaspora communities of Dawoodi Bohras globally, including the United States.

Sahiyo is dedicated to empowering Dawoodi Bohra and other Asian communities to end female genital cutting (FGC) and create positive social change. By working towards an FGC-free world, we aim to recognize and emphasize the values of consent and a child’s/woman’s right over her own body. We aim to enable a culture in which female sexuality is not feared or suppressed but embraced as normal.

Sahiyo is the Bohra Gujarati word for ‘saheliyo’, or friends, and reflects our organization’s mission to engage in dialogue with the community to find a collective solution towards ending the practice of FGC or khatna.

More and more Bohras are speaking out against the practice of khatna, or female circumcision, in the media, in blogs, on social media and, most importantly, among their friends and families. We are no longer voiceless, and we will no longer be faceless.

We believe that a girl’s clitoris should not be cut or sliced or pricked in any way, we believe that no one has a right to control a woman’s sexuality, we believe every individual has a right over their own bodies. And we are now saying this through photographs.

Join Sahiyo’s “I am a Bohra” photo campaign and tell the world why you would like the community to stop practicing female khatna. The process is simple:

  • Write up a sign or placard saying “I am a Bohra. I oppose khatna because…[insert your reason]
  • If you’re not Bohra, write up a sign saying “I oppose khatna because…”
  • Pose with the sign, click a photo!
  • Post the photo on Sahiyo’s Facebooktimeline or tweet it to @sahiyo2016 or e-mail it tosahiyo2016@gmail.com
  • (Make it your profile picture too, if you like!)

Here are some possible reasons you could cite for opposing khatna:

  • because you cannot cut a part of me without my consent
  • because no one has a right over MY body
  • I have a right over my own sexuality
  • my body is not yours to tamper with
  • I am fine the way God made me
  • my sexual desires do not need “moderation”
  • children should never be subjected to pain
  • because I love my body the way that it is
  • it is against Human Rights
  • I’m opposed to female khatna or khafd because I’m happy with my God given sexuality

Disclaimer: Please note that participation in this campaign does not necessarily mean that the participant has undergone Khatna or FGC. We are asking all those who support an end to the practice of FGC (regardless of their gender) to show their support by taking part in this campaign. We are NOT asking anyone who participates in this campaign to disclose whether or not they have undergone it.