National-award winner Priya Goswami’s first film looked closely at the practice of female genital cutting practised by the Dawoodi Bohra community of India. The community is one of the more liberal, sects of Islam, yet practises this form of ritualistic Female Genital Circumcision/ Type 1 (FGC) often using crude methods and no anesthesia. Her new film ‘Just a small nick or cut, they say…’ produced by Love matters India, raises the voices against khatna even louder. The Hong Kong based independent filmmaker tells us about the force behind her new project.
What was the idea behind the video?
The idea was to bring as many people as possible on this together and to project a unified voice against the practice of khatna or Female Circumcision/Type 1 FGC in the Dawoodi Bohra community. The community practices the least severe form of FGC, Type 1, which is complete or partial removal of the clitoris or the clitoral hood. It’s a widely observed phenomenon in Asia, but gets overshadowed by the belief that it is an ‘African problem’. We wanted to put it on the map more prominently.
The script is in the form of running prose poem featuring a bunch of people. We wanted to give voice to people who got hurt, to people who didn’t or did not want to remember it. The last thought spoken by one person is carried forward by the next. The narration thus seems like one running story of many people. Another idea was to underscore the varied experiences. We often come across discrepancy in experiences. Not everyone was injured grievously. Many were even spared, but since it is a social norm, they lie about having it done.
What challenges did you face?
The challenge is always about bringing people together. Once that is done, everything slowly falls into it’s rightful place. I was very fortunate this time that whoever I approached said Yes instantly! The video features people who have been outspoken in their opinion, as well as voices speaking publicly for the first time – like Abbas Ali Paatwala. He is the first father to speak out against the practice.
What are you hoping to achieve?
We are trying to gain more recognition and worldwide acceptance for Type 1 FGC as a form of gender-based violence. We want to put areas affected by less severe forms of FGC in the world map and dispel the misconception that FGC is only an ‘African problem’. We also want to give a face (or in this case, faces) to the movement. This is not about someone anonymously making a plea for the practice to stop. This about real people, in flesh and blood marking a conversation (which was until a few years ago, a taboo), with their own voice of resistance.
Abbas Ali Paatwala is one of the first male voices to speak out against the Bohra ritual
How did you bring the cast together? Was it difficult?
I was very lucky that around the time I was about to shoot this video, my colleagues from US were also here. The video also features activist and co-founders of Sahiyo, a trans-national organization working to raise awareness on FGC.