Female genital cutting is a “reprehensible practice” and “no one condemns it more than the Dawoodi Bohra community”, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the Supreme Court on Tuesday. However, he added that the practice was being equated to female circumcision, Live Law reported.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud was hearing a public interest litigation which asked the court to declare the practice of female genital cutting illegal. Appearing for the Dawoodi Bohra community, Singhvi told the court that “female genital mutilation” is a “barbaric, African practice which has been mixed up with female circumcision”.
He claimed that 50% of the male population in the United States undergoes circumcision, as do 30% of male children in Islamic countries. “Male and female circumcision have the same health benefits,” Singhvi asserted. “But female circumcision, which is an even less invasive procedure than male circumcision, is being equated with ‘female genital mutilation’?” Singhvi asked. “It is like comparing chalk and cheese.”
However, Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that “mutilation” is merely an adjective, and asked Singhvi to explain to the court what “female circumcision” meant. Justice Chandrachud said that the child who undergoes circumcision must experience a significant amount of trauma, pain and bleeding, as the procedure is not carried out by a qualified medical professional. The judges also observed that no doctor would be willing to carry out such a procedure without a scientific basis.
“It does not require a major chunk of imagination to see that a child who is undressed and subjected to this procedure would relent. Someone must hold the child down?” Chandrachud asked. The judge also dismissed Singhvi’s contention that women in the West have performed surgery on the clitoral hood to enhance sexual pleasure, saying that this involved consent.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan told the court that Dawoodi Bohra community leaders in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Africa had passed resolutions asking parents and guardians from practicing female circumcision. He also said that the practice attracts the provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.
Attorney General of India KK Venugopal had told the court that the practice of female genital cutting “violates the preconditions of public order, morality and health imposed under Articles 25 and 26 and the right to bodily integrity”.
On Monday, the top court had said that the practice of female genital cutting cannot be constitutional as it is “solely used to make a woman more appealing to her husband,”