Lead Author: TAHER Mariya
Published by: Sahiyo
Year published: 2017

Female Genital Cutting or FGC (also known as female genital mutilation and female circumcision) comprises all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural, religious, traditional and other non-medical reasons. FGC is primarily known to be practiced in sub-Saharan African countries, but its prevalence is found globally, including within Asian and Asian diaspora communities. Currently, little to no representative data has been collected on the practice within these communities.

This study attempts to understand the views, beliefs and rationales of the practice held by women belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community to enable policymakers, donors, program developers, health professionals, and other key stakeholders to have a clearer insight into ending this human rights violation.
The Dawoodi Bohras are a sub-sect of Ismaili Shia Islam, whose administrative headquarters are located in Mumbai, India. The majority of Dawoodi Bohras reside in India and Pakistan, but over the last few decades there has been a rapid and significant migration of Dawoodi Bohras to the Middle East, East Africa, Europe, North America, Australia, and other parts of Asia. Three hundred and eighty-five women, affiliated with the Dawoodi Bohra community, living in the above mentioned disparate geographic locations, participated in this study by filling out an online survey. Findings indicated that 80% of the survey respondents had undergone FGC, and that various rationales were given for the continuation of FGC, including for 1) Religious purposes (56%), 2) To decrease sexual arousal (45%), 3) To maintain traditions and customs (42%), and 4) Physical hygiene and cleanliness (27%).
Regardless of the justifications given by the Dawoodi Bohra community, the findings demonstrate that FGC is deeply rooted in the community’s culture. Understanding the complex social norms and cultural value systems that shape the meaning and significance of the practice within this community is critical to the work of anti-FGC advocates. On a constructive note, despite the high prevalence of FGC within the survey participant population, 82% stated they would not continue FGC on their daughter(s), indicating a window for change and abandonment of FGC among future generations of Dawoodi Bohras.