Khafd – the Female Mutilation

In the modern world, women are still the victim of various atrocities in and around the world. Khafd is one of them being the most gruesome and cruel in nature. In Islam, circumcision of the female genital organs is known as “Khafd”[1] which is also referred as Female Genital Mutilation or Circumcision (FGM/C). So what is Khafd or Female Genital Mutilation or Circumcision (FGM/C)? It simply means cutting, removing or sewing closed all or part of a female’s external genitals for no medical reasons. It is the procedure wherein female genitals i.e. clitoris and or labia majora /labia minora are either partially or totally removed or disfigured or are either injured. The Dawoodi Bohra community settled all over the world preach this inhuman practice worldwide stating this as a mandate for their community i.e. if a female does not get done her Khafd or Khatna that female including her family cannot be a part of their community. This practice is carried out by certain Christians and Jews as well. They believe that that practice of FGM/C can encourage the rise of their religion.[2] FGM/C is classified into four types based on the severity and extent of cutting. Type 1 is removing clitoral hood without removing entire clitoris. Type 2 is partial or total removal of labia minora along with total cut of clitoris. Type 3 is a type where vaginal orifice is stitched and tapered along with removal of part or all of the labia minora whereas Type 4 contains all other types of harmful non-medical procedures on female genitals.[3]

FGM/C has its origin in Africa-Egypt and Yemen that is the countries where Dawoodi Bohras are originally formed. The FGM/C was practiced in 5th century B.C. in Egypt; however, it is unfortunately still continued in 21st century today. In fact, Egyptian mummies display characteristics of FGM/C.This practice is prevalent in 29 countries of Africa, certain groups in Asian countries including India, in the middle-east including United Arab Emirates, in Eastern Europe, South America, Western countries including Australia, United Kingdom and United States of America. [4]

FGM/C is carried out on females between the age group of 1 to 15 years, on adult females before getting married or even after their marriage which is mostly without consent. In fact, this gruesome practice is also carried on the new born baby girls.  FGM/C is performed with sharp tools like razor blades, hot heated sharp knives, scissors, piece of glass and also needles to disfigure the genitals if no other accessory is available usually without anesthesia. This practice is carried out by the Community Heads and sickeningly even by the medical practitioners considering medicalization of FGM/C will lead to less harm and pain; which is a myth.!!! FGM/C or Khafd can never be Safe!! All types of FGM/C practiced on a woman lead to severe health complications which include pain, shock, hemorrhage, tetanus or infection, urine retention, urine and wound infection which can be grave enough to cause death of that woman. It also leads to complications during delivering a baby, inability to have sex, lack of sexual pleasure, painful menstruation including Long term consequences therefore making a women disabled for life long. Why disability because after performing FGM/C female’s legs are tied together for a good 15 to 30 days in order to avoid breakage of the formation of the scar tissues. Later, these females are also made to get their clitoris or foreskin cut again if they are not removed properly according to their ritual or as per their community head’s instruction and commands.

“Haram ki Boti” is what the the Dawoodi Bohra Community practicing this ritual refers for the remains, the non-removed genitals or the incomplete removed genitals. This ritual of Khafd or FGM/C on a female puts an end to the sexual desires and feeling of womanhood for a lifetime. The clitoris is considered as Haram Ki Boti as it is the only genital organ which gives sexual pleasure to a woman. In fact, the when the girls or females from this community are asked about their views on this practice, they simply say that its natural without a second thought and upfrontly speak that it helps in keeping a woman pure since this practice stops a female from involving in pre-marital sex and extra marital affairs and they also believe that FGM/C improves bond between Husband and wife which sounds absolutely insensible and dictated. The communities practicing this evil, give psychosexual, sociological and cultural reasons like if a clitoris is not cut then it will grow to the size of the penis or also fertility will be enhanced on female going through FGM/C. In fact no religion in the world promotes this practice on girls but still around more than half of girls in the countries where FGM/C is prevalently practiced and where data has been found see FGM/C as a requirement and necessity for sustainability in a religion[5]

In India, Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community practicing Khafd or FGM/C are very strict with their norms and rituals. They say that it is mandatory to perform ‘Khafd’ on a female before marriage or else that female cannot marry anyone in her community.[6] In fact if any family from this community, don’t follow community norms, they are deserted by their community. Similarly, there was an incident in Mumbai then Bombay where a family were deserted by their own Dawoodi Bohra Community for not following FGM/C on their female.  In 1949 for the redressal asked by the deserted Dawoodi Bohra members, Bombay Prevention from Excommunication Act was formulated for the reparation of the few boycotted people from the community since this act prohibited expulsion. But however after huge prolonged legal battle it was decided by the Supreme Court in Sardar Syedna Taher Saifuddin Saheb vs The State of Bombay[7], that this act of excommunication is a legitimate one since this practice is protected under Article 26 of the Indian Constitution and held the above Act unconstitutional. But later in 2014, legislature of Maharashtra passed the Maharashtra Prohibition of People from Social Boycott (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2016 to prohibit the social boycott of individuals or families by any community or caste is an offense and also fine has to be paid if the same is done by any community. But the common people or under developed under the fear of ex communication and religious sanctions, act as a compulsion to Bohra parents to perform FGM on their daughters and therefore are forced to carry out FGM.[8]

In India, The Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC) deals with different types of violence pulled against females specifically section 319 to 326 of IPC speaks about classification of hurt and grievous hurt. WHO states the immediate complications of FGM/C include excessive bleeding, genital tissue swelling, problems of wound healing, genital tissue injury, shock and death and also long term consequences including urinary problems, vaginal problems, menstrual problems, sexual problems etc. [9]which all means causing hurt or grievous hurt however people supporting and forcing FGM/C may be prosecuted under IPC. Particularly Section 324 and 326 of IPC provide penalties of imprisonment and vines for causing voluntary hurt and grevious hurt R. K. Raghavan, former director of CBI, states that although FGM/C is not an explicitly notified offence under IPC, but on a complaint the police are obligated to register a case under section 326 of IPC.[10]Also FGM/C which needs insertion of a sharp object in vagina of a child, can be covered under section 3 of The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 i.e. POSCO Act which states penetrative sexual assault by any person on any child which means insertion of any object in the vagina of the girl, r/w Explanation 1 of Section 375 of IPC which categorically states that the word vagina includes labia majora. It is important to make laws for total ban of FGM/C in India like USA where FGM/C or Khafd is considered as a crime under Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act 1996.[11] An act should be formulated in India which can protect young girls and women from the cruel community rituals and penalize the ones for undertaking this practice. In 2017, A Public interest Litigation (PIL), Sunita Tiwari vs Union of India[12]  has been filed by Sunita Tiwari a Delhi based lawyer seeking a ban on FGM in India but the same is still pending after India’s Attorney General K.K.Venugopal requested the bench of Supreme Court comprising of then Hon’ble Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Hon’ble Justice Mr. A.M.Khanwilkar and Hon’ble Judtice Dr. D.Y.Chandrachud to refer the PIL before a larger bench on 25th September 2018 and since then the matter is still pending in the Supreme court which is almost a year or more now. There has been no movement with regards to it till date. The Supreme court of India should not blind fold in such sensitive subject of female genital mutilation which is been practiced on many innocent females in India behind the closed doors under the pressure of the family and community.FGM/C in India is considered as India’s darkest secret and is being practiced in the heart of Mumbai i.e. Bohiri Mohalla. In an article written by Harinder Baweja, women undergone by FGM have shared their experience of being circumcised and Yes in India this practice is very prevalent. These women say that FGM is ingrained in the culture and people unquestioningly do it to be a part of the community.[13] The sad part is The National Crime Records Bureau of India provides no data or does not acknowledge any data for FGM/C in India.[14]India has taken no movement in spite of FGM/C being declared violative of human rights under United Nations Article 10.[15]In fact this gruesome practice also violates Article 21 and Article 15 of Constitution of India but still there is no strong act or law banning FGM/C in India.

In fact, a Law or an Act should be formulated which penalize parents along with imprisonment and heavy fine who make their daughters go through FGM/C and the doctors of the community who profoundly carry out this practice without a pinch of guilt.

Awareness programs should be held be it at a smaller level or higher level in order to make these people and most importantly the females aware that no religion in the world condones this cruel practice, it’s just the unrealistic and insensible rituals which are followed without questioning these Orthodox Irrational Community Heads all over the world.

Dawoodi Bohra Community in India are considered to be one of the most civilised and educated sect of Muslims but at the same time sadly it is the only community in India which prevalently practices this

Females are used as a Toy for maintaining the supremacy of the religions by bombarding such painful and irrational ritual. Females are considered as the Symbol of Power in the world as a whole. Accordingly, in almost various parts of the world this ritual is banned. It is a shame to having seen this practice prevalent in the country like India where each and every atrocity against females is given an ear but at the same time Female Genital Mutilation done by the Bohras being conveniently ignored in spite of it being the most unrealistic and unacceptable practice all over the world.  Wake Up India! Wake Up!



[2] United Nations Population Fund published an questionnaire related to female genital mutilation recently in July,2019

[3] World Health Organization classified  Female Genital Mutilation in various types



[6] An award winning documentary “Pinch of a Skin” by Priya Goswami aired on 4TH February 2016

[7] ‘MANU/SC/0072/1962’



[10]Article India: Ban this barbarous practice! Stop FGM Middle East

[11] A Briefing Paper “Legislation on Female Genital Mutilation in the United States” on

[12] ‘MANU/SCOR/29990/2018’



[15] Charter of United Nations, Chapter IV.

This article is authored by Miss. Kshitija Pravin Bhosale, Student of LL.M at NMIMS Kirit Mehta School of Law, Mumbai.

Also Read – The Concept of Gender Neutrality

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