The Supreme Court on Monday expressed concern over the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and questioned why should “bodily integrity be violated and compromised”. Hearing petitions seeking ban on the practice prevalent in the Bohra Muslim community, Justice D Y Chandrachud, sitting with Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justice A M Khanwilkar, observed, “Our genitals are as private as any other part of the body. Why should anyone have the right to touch the genitals of any human?”
Appearing for a trust belonging to women of Bohra community, senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi opposed the petitions and said there was a difference between female circumcision and FGM. While he did not support FGM, the former was in vogue among Dawoodi Bohra women since centuries, and it would be protected under Articles 25 and 26 of Constitution, he contended. He demanded that the matter be referred to a Constitution bench.
Attorney General K K Venugopal countered Singhvi and cited WHO reports to say that the practice had serious health consequences for women and should be “prohibited”.
CJI Misra observed that the practice will fall under POCSO Act, and added, “these petitions have been filed by women. And if they do not want it, then it cannot be imposed”. The court allowed all applications seeking impleadment and fixed July 16 to hear the matter next. The court was hearing PILs, one filed by an advocate and two by Bohra women, demanding a law against female circumcision on the ground that it violates child rights of Bohra girls.