Towards an understanding of the current debates on the Dawoodi Bohra tradition of Female Genital Cutting

Towards an understanding of the current debates on the Dawoodi Bohra tradition of Female Genital Cutting

A synthesis of key issues.

A synthesis of key issues.

As a result of concerns about discrimination arising from the publication of ‘Understanding Female Genital Cutting in the Dawoodi Bohra Community’ (Sahiyo, 2017), representatives of the orthodox Dawoodi Bohra requested an independent review by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. They claimed that Sahiyo’s research had misrepresented the views of the majority of their community and conflated the traditional practice of female circumcision with invasive forms of FGM. It has since been used widely in the media and as evidence in a Public Interest Litigation case in the Indian Supreme Court that seeks to make the practice illegal. An alternative argument being heard is that criminalising the practice is counter to the right to religious freedom. This has been put forward most strongly by the Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom (DBWRF).

With very little research available on the Dawoodi Bohra practice and in the absence of a new primary study of impact or cultural context, this synthesis has constructed evidence-based hypotheses from relevant studies of similar types of cutting practices and the cultural context of female circumcision in other Muslim contexts. The conclusions, based on the available evidence, are the authors’ and do not represent the Dawoodi Bohra or any other community.

The differences in views about FGC presented by the orthodox and those who describe themselves as reformist Dawoodi Bohra have resulted in a polarisation of the debate. By identifying these positions, this synthesis sets out to place the Sahiyo report within a wider context of theoretical and practical debates pertaining to FGC practice, both in and beyond the Dawoodi Bohra community. In addition, by asking a number of critical questions, the synthesis attempts to set out a route to a less polarised – albeit still complex – understanding of the current situation and suggests future work to open up dialogue across the different positions.

Download the synthesis report.

For more information, please contact the authors Dr Sadie King s.king@tavinstitute.org and Georgie Parry-Crooke g.parry-crooke@tavinstitute.org

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