January 22, 2013
Muslim body pushes Indonesian govt to circumcise girls
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) is bucking a United Nation's campaign to ban female circumcision, demanding that the government keep the practice legal.
MUI deputy secretary-general Amirsyah Tambunan told reporters at a press conference on Monday that the government should continue to allow female circumcision, calling it a constitutional right.
"Circumcision is a part of the Islamic teachings that were recommended for Muslims, both male and female," Amrisyah said at MUI headquarters as quoted by Antara news agency. "The MUI and Islamic organisations in the country firmly stand against any efforts to ban female circumcision."
Female circumcision performed by licensed doctors, nurses or midwives was legalised by a Health Ministry regulation issued in 2010 that defined the practice as "incising the skin that covers the front part of clitoris, without harming the clitoris".
Last month, the UN approved a non-binding resolution urging its 193 member states to enforce legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation.
According to the World Health Organisation, female genital mutilation can cause urination problems, severe bleeding and complications during childbirth.
In Indonesia the practice ranges from the symbolic - a small tap with a bamboo stick - to slicing the clitoris off with scissors.
The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) has consistently urged that the 2010 ministerial regulation be revoked, claiming it violated women's reproductive rights.
Meanwhile, Huzaemah, a member of MUI's fatwa commission, said that female circumcision was a religious obligation that should be done to control women's sexual desire.
Separately, the executive director of the Wahid Institute, Ahmad Suaedy, disagreed, saying that the practice was based on fiqih (Islamic jurisprudence) that could be interpreted differently by different ulemas.
"Female circumcision is not in the sharia. Maybe, the MUI drew their conclusions from a fiqih that was applied in a particular context and region," he told The Jakarta Post.
Meanwhile, Enrico Renaldi, a physician from the Indonesian General Practitioners Association, said that local medical schools did not teach female circumcision procedures.
"I also have never heard of female circumcision training for doctors. Traditionally, this practice is only performed by midwives," he told the Post.