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From: IRIN [mailto:no-re...@irinnews.org] 
Sent: Thursday, 02 September, 2010 18:18
To: dharmawan ronodipuro
Subject: INDONESIA: Female genital mutilation persists despite ban 

INDONESIA: Female genital mutilation persists despite ban 

JAKARTA, 2 September 2010 (IRIN) - Though the Indonesian government banned
female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) [
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs241/en/ ] four years ago,
experts say religious support for the practice is more fervent than ever,
particularly in rural communities. 
A lack of regulation since the ban makes it difficult to monitor, but
medical practitioners say FGM/C remains commonplace for women of all ages in
this emerging democracy of 240 million - the world's largest Muslim nation. 
Although not authorized by the Koran, the practice is growing in popularity.
With increased urging of religious leaders, baby girls are now losing the
top or part of their clitoris in the name of faith, sometimes in unsanitary
rooms with tools as crude as scissors. 
"We fear if [FGM/C] gets more outspoken support from religious leaders it
will increase even more. We found in our latest research that not only
female babies are being circumcised, but also older women ask for it," said
Artha Budi Susila Duarsa, a university researcher at Yarsi University in
While the procedure in Indonesia is not as severe as in parts of Africa [
http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=90218 ] and involves cutting
less flesh, it still poses a serious health concern. 
"Even a small wound on the genitals can lead to sexual, physiological and
physical problems," Duarsa said. 
Indonesia forbade health officials from the practice in 2006 because they
considered it a "useless" practice that "could potentially harm women's
However, the ban was quickly opposed by the Indonesian Ulema Council, the
highest Islamic advisory body in Indonesia. 
In March this year, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Muslim
organization, issued an edict supporting FGM/C, though a leading cleric told
the NU's estimated 40 million followers "not to cut too much". 
"It is against human rights," said Maria Ulfah Anshor, a women's rights
activist and former chair of the women's wing of the NU. "For women there is
absolutely no benefit and advantage." 
Changing perceptions 
FGM/C traditionally existed as a sign of chastity; a symbolic practice
performed by shamans, or local healers, who used crude methods such as
rubbing and scraping. 
With shamans largely falling out of favour, the religious are turning to
midwives who rely more on cutting instead. 
"Midwives don't know what they are doing. They were never taught the
practice at school, so they do the same with girls as with boys: they cut,"
Anshor said. 
During the 32-year Suharto dictatorship, outspoken religious expression was
discouraged, but since his fall in 1998, people started looking for their
religious identity, with stricter interpretations of Islam being adopted by
scores of municipalities. 
More Indonesian Muslim women wear a headscarf now, claiming it is more
accepted than it was 15 years ago. 
Forbidden, but unregulated 
The 2006 ban prohibited FGM/C, but in practice there is no oversight. 
Yarsi University researchers found that in spite of the ban, the practice
continues unabated in hospitals and health centres. 
A midwife at a state hospital in Jakarta told IRIN on condition of anonymity
that she cuts newborn girls: "When mothers ask me to do it, I tell them
about the upsides and downsides of circumcision," she said. 
But when asked to explain the benefits, she declined further comment. 
According to Yarsi University's research, most incidents happen in secret,
sometimes unhygienic, back-street operating rooms - creating a big risk of
"If there are problems, it is because the practice is not done in a sterile
way," Duarsa said. 
An official standard? 
The demand for FGM/C makes it hard to control the practice, said Minister of
Women's Empowerment Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar. 
 "That's why we encourage female circumcision to be medicalized and
practiced by trained health personnel to avoid further harm." 
Gumelar is working with the Ministry of Health to make an unsafe practice
safer, even though it is outlawed and has been condemned by a large number
of treaties and conventions, and ratified by most governments of countries
where FGM/C is present. 

The development dismays women's rights fighter Anshor. 
"I would advise not to circumcise your daughters at all," Anshor said. "If
women are circumcised, people believe they become more beautiful and not as
wild and will make men more excited in bed. For women themselves, they don't
get any excitement at all." 
It is hard to tell what impact, if any, government action will have on
people like grandmother Dede Jafar, who had never heard of the ban but does
not like it. 
"That is so sad because Muslims have to be clean," she said, sitting outside
her home with her 10-month-old granddaughter who was cut eight months ago.
Jafar noted that every woman in her family has undergone the procedure. 
"Even if it is forbidden, we still have to find someone to do it. It is
obligatory. We should always try to find someone to do it for us, because we
have to." 


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