Volume 1: Issue 9 - Learn about Sahiyo's anti-fgc work in our newsletters

Sahiyo Newsletter 

United Against Female Genital Cutting

Sahiyo conducts a workshop for media on FGC 

On August 8, 2016, Sahiyo conducted its first media training workshop at The Press Club in Mumbai with nearly 30 participating journalists. The workshop was held in partnership with the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), and its objective was to train journalists on how to sensitively and effectively report on the practice of Female Genital Cutting (khatna) prevalent in the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community.

News publications in India have taken an active interest in breaking the silence and secrecy around khatna through interviews, reports, features and news documentaries. FGC, however, is a very complex and controversial issue that requires well-informed and nuanced reporting that is sensitive to the survivors and communities involved. This, at times, has been amiss. Often, journalists unwittingly misunderstand and misrepresent facts about khatna among Bohras, and/or portray the issue in a sensational manner that can end up harming FGC survivors, girls at risk and the movement at large.

Sahiyo realised that this could be addressed only by generating more awareness amongst journalists about FGC in the Bohra community and the pros and cons of various styles of reportage on the issue. In the media workshop, Sahiyo spoke of the need for the media to prioritise the interests and confidentiality of khatna survivors and the need to avoid sensationalised, judgemental terminology and “blood-and-gore” imagery. Among other things, the workshop also asked reporters to avoid factual errors - like misrepresenting the health consequences of Bohra-style Type 1 khatna - and generalisations about the ways in which khatna is experienced by Bohra women.  

In the week after the workshop, the event was written about in a number of media reports (like this one). Read more about Sahiyo’s first media workshop here.

Sahiyo co-founder speaks to Mumbai college students about FGC and gender violence 

While in Mumbai this past August, Sahiyo co-founder Mariya Taher had the opportunity to speak to college students at SNDT Women’s University and Nirmala Niketan regarding gender violence, and the storytelling approach that Sahiyo is taking to create social change.

She met with students of social work and women’s studies to gauge their understanding on the topic of female genital cutting and to share with them best practices and other community-led initiatives that have proven effective in terms of communities abandoning such harmful social practices. She spoke on the importance of understanding that FGC is viewed as a social norm in many practicing communities, making the continuation of the practice difficult to end. However, she also discussed the term ‘pluralistic ignorance’ and that through conversations with community members and through Sahiyo’s research, she has seen a trend in people wanting to abandon the practice but being afraid to speak publicly about it because of the belief that others want it to continue.

Sahiyo thus encourages advocacy campaigns and story sharing to help end this misconception and showcase that FGC is indeed a human rights violation misguidedly being touted as tradition or a religious requirement.

To learn more on Mariya's visit to Mumbai, click here.

FGC in Singapore’s Malay community: An activist speaks out

Singapore is usually presented as a modern, cosmopolitan city. Yet, underneath the facade of modernity, female genital cutting (FGC), or the local term sunat perempuan, is still practiced in Singapore within the ethnic Malay community who are predominantly Muslim.

Traditionally, when a boy is circumcised, a family gathering will be held where prayer rituals are done. However, when a baby girl is cut, there is no big “celebration.” Sunat perempuan remains a hidden and silent ritual not just in Singapore society at large, but in the Malay community itself. The community does not see sunat perempuan as an issue or an issue serious enough to be discussed. Since the circumcision does not seem to inflict any long-lasting or observable consequences into adulthood (or at least, none reported), the practice continues.

The medicalization of sunat perempuan makes it even harder to eradicate the practice. There is no law or legislation banning the practice, allowing private clinics to offer the procedure legally. In addition to being performed in a “medical” setting, many don’t see a need for concern because the procedure that is done in Singapore is Type 1a (removal of clitoral hood/prepuce) or Type 1b (removal of the clitoris with prepuce) and not as extreme as those done in other countries.

Our project in Singapore, called Gender Equality Is Our Culture (GEC), has been working with the support of an online platform Beyond the Hijab, to address the silence surrounding sunat perempuan in 3 ways: Raising public awareness, research and advocacy.

Read the full article here.




Survivor Story:

At the outset, there doesn’t seem to be much in common between Bohra Muslims and Malay Muslims. They come from different races, cultures, contexts and follow different sects of Islam. But like the Bohras, Malay Muslims in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and other countries also practice Type 1 Female Genital Cutting - the removal of a little girl’s clitoral hood. In Malay, the practice is known as sunat perempuan and like the Bohras, Malays also cite a variety of reasons for practicing FGC.

In this story, first published on Beyond Hijab SG, a Singaporean Malay woman explains why she chose not to cut her daughters:  

“Before I made the decision to cut or not to cut, I asked my friends and searched the internet for legitimacy.  Why, where and how was this done, I couldn’t find any valid answers. Then I turned to the one place where Muslims go to for answers, the Holy Qur’an. To my surprise, there are no verses supporting it in the Qur’an. There’s only a vague hadith about male circumcision. Yet female circumcision is accepted and performed by all Muslim families I know like a sacred duty...As a Muslim and a mother, my reason for not allowing my child to undergo the procedure is why would Allah create an imperfect human body?”

Read the whole story here and watch our blog for more personal narratives, in-depth articles and much more.

If you would like to share your own story involving khatna or female genital cutting, send us an e-mail at Stories can be shared via our Sahiyo newsletter and blog anonymously or publicly.

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Copyright © 2016 Sahiyo, All rights reserved. Sahiyo's mission is to empower Asian communities to end female genital cutting and create positive social change through dialogue, education and collaboration based on community involvement. You signed up for our newsletter to receive more information on our organization's activities in this endeavor.
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