'How can you touch anybody's genitals?'
During an unusual hearing on a petition seeking ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) practised among Muslims of the Dawoodi Bohra Community, the Supreme Court on Monday wondered "how can you touch anybody's genitals?"
"Bodily integrity of a woman cannot be infringed without her consent", said the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
Besides four union ministries, the SC have sought replies from states like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi,where Dawoodi Bohras, who are Shia Muslims, predominantly reside. Detailed hearing has been fixed for July 16.
The PIL was filed by Delhi-based lawyer Sunita Tiwari, seeking a direction to the Centre and the states to impose a complete ban on inhuman practice of 'khatna' or female genital mutilation (FGM) throughout the country.
It contended that the practise does not have any reference in the Quran and is carried out without any medical reason unlike circumcision amongst males.
The plea has sought a direction to make FGM an offence on which the law enforcement agencies can take cognizance on their own.
It has also sought to make the offence non- compoundable and non-bailable with provision for harsh punishment.
She said the practice amounts to an offence under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012 and the Indian Penal Code.
"We have also prepared a report on the consequences it has on adult life and the trauma that stays," submitted senior counsel Indira Jaising who appeared for the petitioner.
Supporting the ban, Attorney General K K Venugopal who appeared for the Centre said World Hearlth Organisation does not approve of it.
"This practice has to be stopped. It has been declared as a crime in the USA, UK, France and 27 African countries", he said.
In the Dawoodi Bohra community, the clitoris part of a woman's vagina is also known as 'haraam ki boti' or 'source of sin' or more simply, 'unwanted skin'. The idea behind cutting off this part of the vagina is padded with centuries of patriarchy--if a woman knows the pleasure she can receive through it, she might go 'astray' in the marriage, or bring 'shame' to the community.