Why I am a Feminist – Rita Banerji

“Why are you a Feminist?” is actually not a question. It is a defense that some women are now having to make to a majority of women world-wide. A majority which thinks that now that women have the vote (even if not in all countries yet) and can apply to most jobs (even if not all yet), Feminism’s time is out. All it is – is an oddball, angry outfit that makes all women look bad. Look bad to whom? To men, of course! If women want men to like them, many believe they must rid the world of Feminism. In an oddly circular way the reason they believe that is because that’s what men are telling them: Want us love you, get rid of Feminism.

So even as I will do my bit by explaining ‘why I am a feminist,’ I also need to state how strange I think it is that I (or for that matter anyone) even needs to explain. It’s not just having to explain—to women—that’s strange, but also the aversion I see in most women towards Feminism is puzzling to me!! It’s weird because it is like an African-American having to explain why they are civil rights activists to other colored people who happily use the rights the civil rights activists have fought for, but hate being identified with the anti-racism movement!!!

So here goes:

1) I am a feminist because I am an individual, who wants a gender-just society, and not just because I am a woman. Therefore, even if I was a man, I would still be a feminist, like many men are! It is not about my gender, but about my ideology as an individual. Just as the civil rights movement was supported by some white people who like the black civil rights activists wanted a racially just society.

2) I am a feminist because as a woman I want to live on and occupy this earth with the same freedom and nonchalance as men. I don’t know what planet the anti-feminist people live on, but more than 98% of the land and resources of the planet that I inhabit—called EARTH—by the U.N.’s 2012 estimate is owned and controlled by men! Women own less then 2%. For me, that is already a mind-blowing, unacceptable, and fundamental inequality. It’s the equivalent of slavery!

3) I am a feminist because women don’t have the most basic of human rights – the right to live safely, simply because they are female. By 2030, India will have systematically eliminated 20% of women from its population, annihilated both before and after birth — only because they are female. And China will have similarly eliminated 20% of its female population. Since these two countries together constitute 40% of the human population, the implication of this is global. This is a genocide – the systematic and deliberate destruction of a targeted human group—on a scale that’s historically unprecedented. Furthermore, there’s not one country in the world where women are not subjected to one or another form of violence, like rape, sex-trafficking, “domestic” violence, random femicides, lethal customs like FGM — because of their gender. Women live in fear of their safety and lives, inside and outside their homes, everywhere, all the time, in a way that men never have to. Yet, governments and international bodies don’t see this as a violation of the basic human rights of a group that constitutes one-half of the human race. They just relegate it to the ‘domestic’ bin, along with cooking, cleaning and laundry!!

4) I am a feminist because I understand that I am a part of the social momentum for a just and humane society. There are rights that I am fighting for today, like the fundamental right to life and safety for girls and women everywhere, which may not be realized in my lifetime. But this I must do for the generations of girls and women to come, just as today as a woman there are certain rights I have, only because the women (and some men) before me fought for those rights for my generation.

Sometime ago, a friend who has two daughters, one of who dreams of becoming an astronaut, was telling me about how she wants this and that for her daughters, like she would for her sons, and then shuddering, like she was shaking off some insects that had crawled on her, she said, “But I am not a feminist!”

And I replied, “That you certainly aren’t! To be a feminist you need to be fighting for girls and women to have equal rights and access to all things, to life, like boys and men. Then there is the “feminist user.” That is – people who directly or indirectly use rights that women and girls are already entitled to only because feminists have fought for these rights. “Feminist users” are important as well! For it is only when rights are used, that they are strengthened. You however fall into the category of a “shameless feminist user.” You curse the very people who fought for the rights that you use, and that you hope will help your daughters’ lives in the future!”

I think that ever man and woman, who wants all the girls and women in his/her family and community to lead a life of dignity with every right and freedom that every human being is entitled to, needs to support the feminist movement worldwide.

Is Female Genital Mutilation only practiced in Africa? No.

There are more than 130 million victims of Female Genital Mutilation in the world! Do we need more?

Not only in Africa, Female Genital Mutilation is practiced in Asia too. A large number of Bohra Muslim women in India and Pakistan are being genitally mutilated in secrecy.

World Health Organization says:

Female genital mutilation has no known health benefits. On the contrary, it is known to be harmful to girls and women in many ways. First and foremost, it is painful and traumatic. The removal of or damage to healthy, normal genital tissue interferes with the natural functioning of the body and causes several immediate and long-term health consequences. For example, babies born to women who have undergone female genital mutilation suffer a higher rate of neonatal death compared with babies born to women who have not undergone the procedure. end in stillbirth or spontaneous abortion, and in a further 25% the newborn has a low birth weight or serious infection, both of which are associated with an increased risk of perinatal death.

Communities that practice female genital mutilation report a variety of social and religious reasons for continuing with it. Seen from a human rights perspective, the practice reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. Female genital mutilation is nearly always carried out on minors and is therefore a violation of the rights of the child. The practice also violates the rights to health, security and physical integrity of the person, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.

Female genital mutilation comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. There are different types of FGM.

Type I — Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (clitoridectomy).

When it is important to distinguish between the major variations of Type I mutilation, the following subdivisions are proposed: Type Ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only; Type Ib, removal of the clitoris with the prepuce.

Type II — Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora (excision).

When it is important to distinguish between the major variations that have been documented, the following subdivisions are proposed: Type IIa, removal of the labia minora only; Type IIb, partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora; Type IIc, partial or total removal of the clitoris, the labia minora and the labia majora.
Note also that, in French, the term ‘excision’ is often used as a general term covering all types of female genital mutilation.

Type III — Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with creation of a covering seal by cutting and appositioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora, with or without excision of the clitoris (infibulation).

Type IIIa, removal and apposition of the labia minora; Type IIIb, removal and apposition of the labia majora.

Type IV — All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.

FGM in Africa. Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria..

Mass mutilation.

Children’s blood

In Asia, the countries where female genital mutilation is practiced are Malaysia, Indonesia, southern parts of the Arab Peninsula, along the Persian Gulf, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, South Yemen and among some sects in India, Pakistan and Russia.

Bohra Muslims in India and Pakistan are mostly wealthy and educated. But they secretly mutilate their little girls. 70 percent or more among Bohra Muslims follow the practice of FGM. Dawoodi Bohra is a sub-sect of Ismāʿīlī Shīʿa Islām. They were persecuted in Yemen by both Shi’a and Sunni Muslims. They had to leave Yemen and took refuge in India. It is believed that they brought FGM culture from Yemen to India centuries ago.
A Bohra Muslim girl tells her story

Some Indian Bohra women started protesting against Female Genital Mutilation. Please sign the petition to ban FGM. Don’t forget it’s not a Bohra issue, It’s not a Muslim issue, it’s a Human Rights issue.


FGM in Indonesia.

FGM in Kurdistan

FGM for Muslim girls in UK

A reporter based in UK says, ‘UK fails to halt female genital mutilation. Parents used to take their daughters back to their country of origin for FGM during school holidays. Now-a-days ‘cutters’ are flown in from abroad to perform the illegal procedure in UK. Hundreds of British schoolgirls are facing the terrifying prospect of female genital mutilation (FGM) over Christmas holidays as experts warn the practice continues to flourish across the country.70,000 women living in the UK have undergone FGM, and 20,000 girls remain at risk. It is generally considered to be an essential rite of passage to suppress sexual pleasure, preserve girls’ purity and cleanliness, and is necessary for marriage in many communities even now. It has no religious significance.’

Summer holiday circumcision: Girls bodies at risk. Watch the video.

FGM should be banned all over the world, Now. We should not forget about the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Article 19 – 1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.
Article 24 – 3. States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children.
Article 37 – States Parties shall ensure that: a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…

Many countries banned FGM. But people continue practicing it. Many times, it is women unaware of their rights, commit the heinous crimes against women. Women are forced to prevent the misogynistic patriarchal system from becoming extinct. I wish they could just say, ‘We have enough! We’re not going to live in anti-women system anymore’! If women’s non-cooperation movement really starts, misogynist monsters will definitely be scared. We are half the world’s population. Aren’t we?