In a small, dimly lit room at the back of a decrepit building near the Bhendi Bazaar in Mumbai, India, Masooma Ranalvi was told to lie down on the floor and spread her legs. She was only 7 years old at the time.
Holding her grandmother’s hand, Ranalvi, still not understanding what was going on, did as she was told — while another woman removed her pants and underwear. “I started crying, and my grandmother told me not to worry, that nothing will happen to me,” she said.
Ranalvi then recalls an excruciating, sharp pain between her legs. “This woman pulls my pants down, holds my legs and does something which is extremely painful down [there].”
Ranalvi, now 51, underwent female circumcision, or khatna, as it’s referred to in the Dawoodi Bohra community, a subsect of Shiite Islam. And, like so many before her, she too, was lured by women in her family with the promise of an outing for ice cream or a special treat.
It only took a few minutes, but in that short time, Ranalvi was changed, as was her body.
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