INDIA: Female circumcision could lead to medical complications: Docs

Close on the heels of the online petition to the Bohra Muslim high priest to stop the ritual of female circumcision in the community, doctors have voiced their concerns about the procedure and its consequences. They say the ritual is often performed clandestinely by inexperienced people, leading to serious medical complications.

The World Health Organisation defines female circumcision or female genital mutilation (FGM) as ‘a procedure that intentionally alters or injures female genital organs for non-medical reasons.’ “I have met at least 20 mothers who have come with their daughters, months after the khatna has been performed, complaining that their daughters have got urinary infections, sepsis, and in a couple of cases, severe haemorrhage,” a gynaecologist who runs a private clinic near Crawford Market said. “Most of the times, it is done by older women in the family using a razor. The antiseptic cream applied later at times increases the chances of infection,” she said.

While Muslim scholars have said the necessity of FMG is not mentioned in Quran, the petition claims that the ritual is highly prevalent among the 10-lakh-strong Bohra Muslim community across Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat. “ I was six when it was done to me. I remember shrieking in pain as my aunts held my hands and legs. When the pain didn’t cease for days, my mother took me to a doctor who said the cut was made too deep rupturing a vessel. Till this day, it burns while urinating,” recalls a 25-year-old Santa cruz resident.

Shiv Sena MLC and a gynaecologist herself, Neelam Gorhe says she has met women from western India whose clitorises were completely removed. “Infection of the urinary tract is the most common complaint among women having undergone circumcision. The pain worsens at the time of menstruation and the condition gets really bad by 35.”

However, she says the issue needs to be put in a proper political context. “Being a religious ritual, the issue is sensitive. The government needs to table gender-friendly laws and the enforcement should be democratic.”

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Date: December 10, 2011

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