Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)-One Has Supreme Authority Over Genitalia, It is Central To Her Identity, Dignity, And Autonomy, Observes Chandrachud.J

The hearing in the PIL praying for the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) to be declared unconstitutional on Monday witnessed some positive, feminist remarks from the Supreme Court.

“The principle of gender sensitivity is entrenched in the Constitution…a practice (FGM) which is engaged in solely to make a woman more appealing to her husband cannot be constitutional…in view of the numerous health hazards associated with it, FGM amounts to a violation of Article 21 which accords primacy to health…when you are thinking of affirmative action in favor of women, you cannot suddenly reverse the process…”, observed Chief Justice Dipak Misra.

Continuing, the judge remarked, “the practice has been imposed not on a class but the other sex…why should a lady be expected to make such efforts? Is she chattel? Or has she been subjugated so much that the only purpose of her being is to please her husband?”

Noting that the impugned practice, prevalent among the members of the Dawoodi Bohra community in India, infringes the Right to Privacy, recognized as a Fundamental Right in Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (2017) Judgment, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud weighed in, “one has supreme authority over genitalia…it is central to one’s identity, dignity, and autonomy…”

On Monday, Senior Counsel Indira Jaising countered the attempt to justify the practice under the garb of the ‘Essential Practices’ doctrine, indicating that the practice of FGM attracts provisions of the IPC as well as the POCSO Act- “something that is declared criminal cannot be an ‘essential practice’…also, FGM is not practiced internationally. Several countries like England and Australia have abolished it by statute, pursuant to which this community residing in those countries have denounced the practice by their own ‘Anjumans’. The Islamic faith asks its followers to respect the law of the land where they reside, and hence, the practice has been abandoned in these countries…”

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