January 21, 2013
Rights Groups Push for Female Circumcision Ban
The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) spoke out against the Ministry of Health’s refusal to ban female circumcision on Monday, calling the practice, which is tolerated in some communities, a form of gender discrimination. [How is that, when male genital cutting is allowed?]
Rural Indonesian Muslims have historically tolerated a form of female circumcision where a small cut is made to the clitoris of a young girl by a dukun (shaman) shortly after birth.
The Ministry of Health banned health workers from performing female genital cutting in a 2006 decree. But in 2010, Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih issued guidelines that instructed health workers to “scrape the skin covering the clitoris, without injuring the clitoris” in an effort to provide a measure of safety in the widely unregulated industry.
Women's rights groups criticized the decree, arguing that the regulation was a tacit approval of female circumcision. Now, three years later, women’s rights groups are pushing for Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi to ban the practice.
“Strange the Ministry of Health, as an institution, can be directed by the MUI [the Indonesian Ulema of Council],” Komnas Perempuan commissioner Ninik Rahayu, told the Indonesian newspaper Tempo.
Nafsiah said the ministry approved of health workers performing female circumcision under the existing guidelines.
“If [women] would like to get circumcised please make an inquiry to a health agency so a medical officer can handle [the procedure],” Nafsiah told Tempo. “Do not go to a dukun [shaman] because [circumcisions done by shamans] are prone to infection.”
Nafsiah said that female circumcision did not cause any negative side effects if the clitoris isn’t cut.
Komnas Perempuan questioned the ministry’s decision.
“What standards?” Ninik said. “Our medical officers have never been trained to perform female circumcision.”
The MUI rejected any efforts to ban the practice on Monday. MUI chairman Ma’ruf Amin instead urged all hospitals and health centers in Indonesia to service those who want their daughters circumcised.
“What we reject is the ban. If there is a request [to perform a female circumcision], don’t turn [the parents] away,” Ma’ruf said.
The MUI considers circumcision an act of religious devotion. The MUI issued a fatwa five years ago, saying that female circumcision is a religious service.
But Ninik argued that, under Islamic law, female circumcision is considered a tradition, not a religious order.