The Supreme Court on Monday took a stand for a woman’s right and dignity by opposing the petition filed by the counsel for a group of Dawoodi Bohra in support of female genital mutilation. The counsel for the group of Dawoodi Bohra was none other than Congress leader and senior lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Singhvi had argued that female genital mutilation was an essential practice of the religion of the Dawoodi Bohras community. He had also contended that it was not right for the court to interfere with a community’s religion. Attorney General KK Venugopal strongly opposed this view of the Congress leader and senior lawyer by stating, “The practice is banned in the US, Australia, UK and several African countries. It ought to be prohibited by law.” The three-judge bench, hearing the matter is led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud. Congress leader and Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi further stated that a “prejudicial image” was being brought to the court of the practice and it was in reality an essential part of the religion of the Dawoodi Bohra sect. The Attorney General quickly followed this with a rebuttal, “Sati was also banned. As also thuggery… which was banned by William Bentinck. Can they be said to be essential practices now?”
The central government has already been pushing for a ban on the ghastly practice which mutilates the private parts of a woman. The petition filed by the Dawoodi Bohra Women’s Association for Religious Freedom was an appeal against the decision of centre which has pushed to end this torment for the women belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community. The questions posed by the CJI and other judges from the bench throws some more light on what the stand of the Supreme Court is likely to be in the days to come. CJI Dipak Misra asked whether the practice was imposed on the girls, “If they are opposed to it can you force it on them?” while Justice Chandrachud asked, “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?”
The Supreme Court has asked the right questions in this regard and it will be difficult for anyone to counter them. The big question is why senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi is acting as a counsel for the community. Is it just another case of minority appeasement politics by the Congress which is yet to make its stand clear on the issue of female genital mutilation? The Congress leadership should come out in the open and support or speak up against this practice by a small but powerful part of the Muslim population in India. The Congress should also make it clear whether Abhishek Manu Singhvi is acting in his own capacity or if he is voicing the opinions of the party. There is no need for the Congress to remain in the shadows of one leader today, it should explain its stand on the practices followed by religious minorities in India like its leader has ridiculed Hindu practices of going to temples quite openly in the past.
The Supreme Court further said that the next hearing would take place in late July, which will be followed by an order. There is an urgent need to end practices like Nikah Halala, polygamy, triple talaq and female genital mutilation which are brutal and horrific to say the least for the women who are forced to abide by them.
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