Circumcision, locally known as Khatna, is the surgical removal of the foreskin, the tissue covering the head (glans) of the penis (Male Circumcision) and the external female genitalia (Female Genital Mutilation or Female Circumcision). The religious beliefs associated with this practice are the actual reasons why this custom is being carried out in many Jewish and Islamic families, as well as certain aboriginal tribes in Africa and Australia, as a cultural ritual. Even though, this custom has been legally banned in many countries, it still succeeds in prevailing due to poor enforcement of laws.
Roots of Circumcision in India
The roots of this custom can be traced primarily in the Bohra community of India. The Bohras are an exclusivist, conservative, male-dominated society with a number of orthodox rituals forced upon the local citizens, in the name of family tradition. Although for men, this custom can be seen as a medical practice because of the several health benefits linked with it. According to the reports of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medically operated male circumcision could reduce the risk of HIV infection, some other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Urinary Tract Infection up to a considerable extent. On the contrary, female circumcision has a drastically different face in India.
Female Circumcision : Boon or Bane?
Unlike male circumcision which is a celebrated event for the family and is done taking care of all the hygienic aspects, khatna in females is performed without the help of any medical supervision. It is a secretive procedure, usually carried out in the presence of a female family member like mother or grandmother and involves the use of improper instruments, that too without any anesthesia. While the male child is usually circumcised on the 2nd or 3rd day after his birth, female child undergoes through the process at age seven. The World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) has no health benefits and it also comes along with some deadly health problems, like, severe pain, shock, hemorrhage (bleeding), tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue. Moreover, this process interferes with the normal functioning of the female body due to the damage caused to the healthy genitalia. Sometimes, the girl child would get seriously injured during the process and would need to be hospitalized immediately.
It wouldn’t be wrong if I say that the genital tissues of a seven year old child are cut down just the way a butcher cuts the meat into pieces!
Orthodox thoughts behind this custom
It’s not only the uneducated and downtrodden classes of the community who support this custom. Even the so-called modern and literate classes see it as their moral duty to keep this ritual alive. This process is considered as a method of suppressing the sexual urge of a girl before marriage in order to secure her virginity. People believe that Khatna would help a girl in becoming an ideal wife by fulfilling the wishes and commands of her husband.
The irony is that, the women themselves pass on this so-called legacy to their daughters and teach them to do the same to their children too. They fear that if they break the chain of perpetuating this practice, they’d not be socially accepted in their community. The religious heads of the community have such a powerful impact on the minds of the local citizens that this custom flourishes everyday in spite of all the legal rules against it.
Stop Female Genital Mutilation
The judiciary system of other countries like Australia and The UN General Assembly have adopted a resolution to eradicate this social evil by formulating strict laws against it. But India is still struggling in putting an end to this custom. This kind of cruelty needs to get ceased anyhow and this could be possible only if its practitioners take an oath to break this chain.
Khatna is another name of terror and inhumanity. Instead of ignoring its ill-effects and carrying it on in the name of tradition, one needs to say to no to it for the beginning of a healthy society.