There is Nothing ‘Moderate’ About Female Genital Mutilation in Indonesia

According to Dr. Meiwita Budiharsana, a lecturer and Faculty of Public Health at the University of Indonesia:

Around 60 million women, or half of the women in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim majority, is estimated to have undergone FGM.

According to data collated by UNICEF, between 2010 – 2015, forty-nine percent of girls in Indonesia up to age fourteen have been mutilated with continuing strong support from religious leaders and parents.

While visiting Indonesia last week Vice-President Pence, characterized the Muslim-majority country as following a “tradition of moderate Islam [which] is frankly an inspiration to the world and we commend you and your people.”


The Indonesian government tried to ban FGM in 2006 but the influential Indonesian Ulema Council, the country’s top Islamic religious organization, issued a fatwa (an authoritative ruling on Islamic law) that what they refer to as “female circumcision,” was part of a “strongly recommended” religious practice although not compulsory. According to Huzaemah Yanggo, the vice-president of the council’s fatwa commission:

The MUI met with the health ministry, and explained that banning female circumcision was against human rights, and sharia law.

The government says FGM in Indonesia is merely “tradition” the term typically used to refer to the practices of Islam’s prophet Mohammed.

In an effort to accomodate the religious leaders and families demanding FGM for their young daughters, in 2010, the Health Ministry issued regulations medicalizing FGM so that only doctors, midwives and other medical providers could perform “noninvasive” FGM that would avoid injury, such as pricking or piercing with a needle or scraping the clitoral hood.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has a zero tolerance position on FGM and classifies “all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” as constituting mutilation along with less invasive procedures such as “pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterization.”

WHO guidelines also warn against medicalizing mutilating women and girls in any form going so far as to publish a “Global strategy to stop health-care providers from performing female genital mutilation.”

Several years later, the Health Ministry revoked the earlier regulations and criminalized FGM.

Regardless, however, according to the Indonesian National Commission on Violence Against Women the degree of mutilation and adherence to the practice varies with the different regions of the country:

In Aceh province, Indonesia’s Islamic stronghold where partial shariah law is implemented, people are so indoctrinated into the practice that opting out is considered immoral, rights activists say. Almost every girl in Aceh is circumcised. Parents see it as a religious obligation and turn a deaf ear to any opposing view and look down on those who don’t circumcise their children.

FGM is not the only dehumanizing assault on women and girls in Indonesia. Reportedly, the country still requires the use of “virginity tests” on female applicants to the National Police. The commander of Indonesia’s armed forces defends invasive virginity tests for female recruits to the Indonesian Armed Forces. as a “way to gauge the women’s morality.”





Related posts

One Thought to “There is Nothing ‘Moderate’ About Female Genital Mutilation in Indonesia”

  1. […] A reader responds: There is Nothing ‘Moderate’ About Female Genital Mutilation in Indonesia. […]