Activists urged Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih to immediately revoke a ministerial regulation on female genital circumcision because it not only legitimizes violence against Indonesian women but also may neglect their abilities to fully exercise their fundamental rights on reproductive health and freedom.
National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) deputy chairperson Masruchah said Thursday the issuance of Health Minister Regulation No. 1636/2010 on female genital circumcision had tarnished the commitments recently shown by the government in protecting women’s reproductive health and freedom.
“It is so sad to see such a setback as we have achieved some improvements in protecting the rights of our women,” Masruchah told a press conference held by Amnesty International and Indonesian Civil Societies.
As part of commitments to protect rights on reproductive health and freedom, the Health Ministry’s public health directorate general issued in 2006 a circular letter prohibiting professional health workers, including nurses, midwives or physicians, to perform female genital circumcision.
After a string of studies, however, the ministry learned that cruel circumcision techniques were practiced in several regions in Indonesia. The 2010 regulation was actually issued to prevent the cruel practices, Komnas Perempuan said, but instead lending support to the practice.
“In Bone, South Sulawesi, followers of Islam who have deep-rooted patriarchal cultures define the female genital circumcision as a total removal of the clitoris. It is very dangerous because it will not only hurt women but also badly affect their reproductive health,” Masruchah said.
The regulation stipulated, among others, that circumcision should be administered only by legal medical workers. The circumcision must not remove any part of the genitalia, but only incise the surface skin of the clitoris.
“How can they now permit female genital circumcision, whereas they have previously prohibited such inhumane practices? It is a setback,” said women rights activist Ratna Batara Munti.
The Komnas Perempuan demanded the ministry prohibit circumcision altogether.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), female genital mutilation refers to procedures that intentionally injure female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Instead of giving health benefits for girls and women, the procedure can cause severe bleeding and urinating problems. It even may lead to complications during childbirth, resulting in higher risks of newborn deaths, WHO said.
About 100 million to 140 million girls and women worldwide suffer from reproductive problems caused by female genital circumcision.
Indonesia and countries in Africa and the Middle East are regions with the highest number of female genital circumcision cases.
Musdah Mulia, a Muslim intellectual from the Islamic State University Syarif Hidayatullah, Jakarta,
said female genital circumcision violated fundamental rights of women and it had no basis in Islamic teachings.
“Islam has never prescribed female genital mutilation,” she said.