What does this mean? How Can FGM be challenged and ended in Indonesia?
Whatever justifications or official support is given for the perpetuity of female genital mutilation in Indonesia, for non-medical to practice, it complicates the existence of girls and women for lifelong.
The 70 million increase in the number of circumcised Indonesian females that had bumped last year’s UNICE February World Report on Female Genital Mutilation from the 130-140 Million mentioned in 2014 report, constitutes as a setback and disappointment in the struggle against this ordeal.
The huge numbers dancing in front of my eyes ached my heart and I was overwhelmed by the memories of my first experience with this ordeal!
This situation however, showed Indonesia not only as country where the cutting of 50% of girls below 11, went undocumented for generations, but as an oasis where violence is prevalently imposed on women and children at such a fragile age, exposes them to HIV and AIDS, thus violating their rights and complicates their lives for good through mass cutting campaigns officially supported.
Amazingly, Indonesia is a country which was not on the list of the 29 African countries practising FGM, suddenly it appeared as the ever largest contributor. Indonesia alone has pumped half of the number of countries where tradition is practised together.
This could be attributed to many factors; the scarcity and unattainability of official reports veiled the numbers and the risks, leaving the media and human rights organisations in the dark for long. This ambiguity has provided fertility for the practice, thus affecting lives of half of its child females and women of its 240 million Muslim communities, where the practice is prevalent.
Suddenly FGM in this country hits alarming levels: If this is the case report in 2015 where information are scarce, how it would be like in the coming years when sufficient information is available about the situation there?!
According to the latest findings given by the UNICEF’s 2013 report half of the girls aged between 0-11 years old are circumcised. The highest percentages range from the top where Goronalo tops with 83.7 %, down to Piau province reported 74.4%. 5 provinces, including the aforementioned two, constitute the highest areas where the Muslim communities live. (See the attached list).Moreover, it is a global human rights violation on women’s reproductive health, perpetuated at a very young age. It violates the rights of the child as guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Indonesia ratified in 1990, as well as CEDAU, 1995.
Why this brutality?
It is difficult to give a clear-cut answer to which the determining factor is, or which one comes first as factors integrated contributing to the perpetuity of this custom. But my research has shown me that there are many interwoven reasons which can be classified as follows:
-Psychological factor – For the purposes of maintaining virginity, chastity and fidelity before and after marriage by chopping sexual organs, stripping women of their sexuality, nullifying their dignity, decision-making rights, at least on their bodies and putting them under the patriarchal regime’s sway.
-Physical - implies social cohesion by initiating a child into womanhood. Also for the purpose of hygienic entails, since sexual organs are perceived as dirty and should be removed too(.. improve hygiene and help them urinate easily), etc (guardian, 18th of November, 2012).
-Mythic - based on an unfounded myth that states practising this ordeal, enhances fertility, reinforces the child’s survival chances, and help the female to become a good rice cooker) ibid. I
-Religious – this factor shouldered by the Muslim community(88% of the total population) in Indonesia, as well as in most of the Muslim communities at large, they claims that FGM is demanded by Islam. This seems to be making progress without the need to motivate the population financially (80000 rubies) given by al-Salam Foundation, to accept the mass practice, in return for the promise of solidifying the religious identity.
Unfortunately, most Muslim communities worldwide consider FGM as a form of beautification and purification ordered by Quran, in spite of the fact that it was not mentioned in its holy book’s 114 verses or has prophet Muhammed or his early followers had it done on their daughters or granddaughters.
In fact this practice had outdated Islam, but many Muslim associate it with a weak hadith in which prophet Mohamed had instructed a traditional midwife not to cut deep: “Cut off only the foreskin (the prepuce or outer fold of skin over the clitoris) and do not cut off deeply (not cutting the clitoris itself), for this is brighter for the face (of the girl) and more favorable with the husband.”. Unfortunately, this tradition may resist any change, because it has a business hidden aspect, practised under the umbrella of religion. An income generating for practitioners whether trained medical personnel or traditional. An attitude that is backed the Indonesian government as in many other Muslim communities where this practice is prevalent.
Unfortunately, Indonesian Muslim women are no exception, from the tiny age they hear that Circumcision is a requirement and ornament for every Muslim woman, thus internalising sexism message. Amazingly, though most of them are the victims of this practice, they are in favour of it.
The population researchers carried out two (2003 and 2010) nationwide studies and reached some astounding findings: between 86 and 100% of households surveyed subjected their daughters to genital cutting, usually before the age of six. More than 90% of adults said they wanted the practice to continue.
The so-called Sunna FGM usually refers to clitoridectomy but is also used for more severe forms. A friend, a female gynaecologist, told me that the removed part under this coverage, normally grow up normally after nobility or the age of 14, in most cases, girls undergo this practice under the age of 11, before the completion of genitals growth.
On the other hand, the bias stance of the Indonesians government has brought efforts to eradicate this practice to square one. On 2011 the Indonesian government took a stand in favour of the practice, in contradiction to its banning stance on 2010. The Indonesian parliament issued guidelines admitting trained doctors and midwives to practice it, with justifications as “safeguarding the female’s reproductive system”. This decision reversed a decision made in 2006 by the ministry of health prohibiting doctors from practising it. As the case, scissors have also replaced penknives as the “symbolic only” types of excision. Symbolic cutting, which was about 28% of all the cases, had been replaced by “harmful” forms, involving incision (49%) and excision (22%).
As the case, this policy has come in favour of practitioners and helps provide and supply them with the necessary medical equipment and medicines to fight back the black market and open the jarred door widely to this ordeal.
The 2003 and 2010 nationwide studies categorised the victim’s sufferings into short and long terms complication. The first included: bleeding, infections that can result in fatal septicemia, tetanus, or gangrene. Whereas long consequences include persistent pain, sexual dysfunction, and chronic urinary tract infection
In the case of Indonesia, this problem casts its shadow beyond being a social and religious problem to take a political aspect, and beyond being a social custom supported by religion, to a political aspect in terms of lack of conformity to the implementation of an international convention on children and women's rights (to which Indonesia is a signatory), and threatens to be economically halt international assistances.
“…the United States (US) Congress in 1996 passed a legislation directing the U.S. government to oppose assistance to governments of countries practising FGM or female circumcision (FC) as a cultural custom, and those that have not taken steps to implement educational programs to prevent the practice. The US State Department of Justice through the USAID/Indonesia in early 2001 identified FC as one of priority area of interventions.
Whenever crisis gleams, the floodgate will be opened to Islamic foundations to practice FGM in large scales, as was the case post the 1998 Indonesian economic crisis when it was noted that poverty induced the rapid increase of Islamic fundamentalism all over the country.”… In West Java, for instance, a
Newspaper article (Pikiran Rakyat, June 11, 2001) advertised openly mass FGM events
organised regularly by the Assalam Foundation who own an Islamic boarding school
(pesantren) with thousands of students (santris), stated the research
Finding lasting solution is not difficult, but it is not achievable in a day and night. It takes a long time to have an FGM free world. In order to have it eradicated, much more must be done to create an enabling environment that safeguards girls’ lives and future productive life. This could be achievable if a set of factors and long-term change multiple approaches have taken into account.
The governments openly backing this practice or turning a blind eye need to get fully engaged and stop allowing this to keep happening and honour the international human rights conventions in which they are signatories. This could be achieved through taking into account four axes and adopting long-term strategy; the culture, education, legislations, and the media.
The Indonesian government must honour its commitment towards the international community and abandon supporting this ugly custom and mandate harsh, punishing procedures for practitioners. Activist groups should take the lead to engage open-minded religious scholars and work toward disengaging this practice with religion and spare young women and girls their body conformity and productive lives.