Khushi was the first child of her banker father and a teacher mother. With her younger brother and her grandmother, she lived in one of the simple middle class societies near Khar railway station, Mumbai. She was a happy child and a brilliant student in her school. Her family, though from a very conservative community, were liberal when it came to girl’s education and career choices. Her father always loved her a lot and encouraged her to be confident and do whatever her heart felt which was often met with resistance from her mother and grandmother who were conservative and who thought it might pollute Khushi’s thinking.
It was July 2000, when Khushi had just started her 5th standard classes in school. On a Sunday morning, her mom woke her up early at 7 am and asked her to get ready immediately. It was raining lightly outside when she, her mom and grandmother stepped outside the house. Even after asking repeatedly, her mom would not tell her where they were going. After riding in an auto for about 40 mins, they reached a very congested and crowded locality with a lot of old buildings. They entered one of the buildings and stood in front of one old flat. Before ringing the bell, her mom told her “Khushi beta, when we go inside, the aunty there will do something to you “down there”. Don’t worry, it will not take more than a minute. I will be there with you”. Khushi suddenly felt scared and her heart started racing with the anticipation of what might happen. When they went inside, there was an old woman, the same age like her grandma and one older girl around 18-20 years. They both took her to a room inside and asked her to lie down on the bed. Khushi looked at her mother for a confirmation and did as was asked. The old woman pulled up her frock and pulled down her nickers. The older girl spread her legs apart and before Khushi could respond there was a sudden and sever pain that erupted from her privates. Khushi started screaming loudly and tried to get up. But her mother hold her tight, trying to console and relax her. The pain was excruciating and in her attempt to get up and run, Khushi got a glimpse of the bed sheet which was now soiled with her own blood. She gave one last look at her mother and then everything was pitch black.
When she regained her consciousness at her own home on her own bed, she still felt extremely sore between her legs. The bleeding stopped in 2-3 days but it took almost a month for the pain to wear off. It was so painful to pee that she usually delayed it for long, which made her stomach ache. She was too young to completely gauge the emotional, social and religious significance of what happened to her but from within, she was scarred for life. She felt humiliated, contaminated, and impure. It took her almost a year to start normal physical functioning yet the emotional pain of the incident won’t fade away.
Today, after 15 years of that incident, the memories still pained her. But now, she was able to comprehend the real picture about the old and inhuman ritual of “Khatana”. Female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision called Khatana still existed in the entire world secretly. Nobody wanted to talk about it as it was done within the confines of the family. Because it has a lot of religious background, women are scared to even oppose it. And how would someone expect an opposition when the victims were generally young girls of 5-10 years.
But today, Khushi was empowered. She had a degree in journalism and was working for a big publishing house as a crime reporter. While researching for one of her stories, she had accidentally found out a den in the dingy areas of Bhendi Bazaar where Khatana was carried out almost every day. And today, she had decided to bring this evil practice in front of the whole world. She was accompanied by her cameraman friend, the photographer, the superintendent of the police and a couple of women right activists. She planned to do an impromptu and live telecast of the entire event. This would expose all the secret and inhuman practices which happened in the area and would help in eradicating this social evil and creating awareness. This would be her own retribution for what she went through in her childhood.
Today she will be happy. Today she will be Khushi.”
This story is inspired from the recent news report about an activist in Mumbai campaigning against female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision followed in some communities. The FGM is a widespread ritual followed in some African countries, Yemen, Iraq, Middle East and some parts of Asia. It consists of cutting of some or all of the female external genitalia. Usually done to girls in the age group of 6 to 10 years, this is sometimes carried out without anesthesia with a scissor or a blade. The result includes recurrent infections, chronic pain, cysts, an inability to get pregnant, complications during childbirth, and fatal bleeding.. This ritual is traditionally rooted in gender inequality, controlling women’s sexuality, concepts of purity and modesty. There are no health benefits. This article is a tribute to all those innocent girls who were the victim of such a cruel practice.
Submitted By – Janhavi Ukhalkar