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Ban Female Circumcision, Centre tells Apex Court

July 10, 2018 06:29 AM


Ban Female Circumcision, Centre tells Apex Court
SEEKING ANSWER CJI demanded to know if the practice could be imposed on women if they did not accept it
AG says practice must go like other regressive practices such as sati and thuggery

New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Monday spoke up for a woman’s bodily integrity even as the central government backed a petition seeking to have the practice of female genital circumcision practised by some communities banned.

A group of women from the Dawoodi Bohras, a Muslim sect that practices female genital circumcision, has opposed the petition in the top court. On Monday, their counsel, senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi, argued that it was an essential practice of their religion and the court could not interfere with the community’s right to religion.

Attorney general KK Venugopal vigorously opposed this view. “The practice is banned in the US, Australia, UK and several African countries. It ought to be prohibited by law,” the top government law officer told a three-judge bench comprising chief justice Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud.

Singhvi insisted that a “prejudicial image” was being brought to the court about the practice.

He maintained that it was an essential part of the religion, to which the AG retorted: “Sati was also banned. As also thuggery… which was banned by William Bentinck. Can they be said to be essential practices now?”

Arguing for the Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom, which has impleaded itself in the petition filed by lawyer Sunita Kumari seeking to ban the practice, Singhvi argued that the practice of the community was not as bad as genital mutilation.

The CJI demanded to know if the practice could be imposed on women if they did not accept it. “If they are opposed to it can you force it on them,” justice Misra asked.

Justice Chandrachud went a step further. “Why should a woman’s right to bodily integrity be violated? Everybody’s genitals are a private part of them and they have absolute control over them. Can anyone be allowed to touch them,” he asked.

Appearing for Tiwari, senior advocate Indira Jaising insisted that the practice could be dealt with under the IPC and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). The bench said it would hear the case again later in July and pronounce an order.

As per written submissions made to the court, some Dawoodi Bohra women said ‘khafz’ or female circumcision as practised by the Dawoodi Bohra community was not female genital mutilation.

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