Until I read this article I had no idea that the government had ‘legitimised’ female genital mutilation.
In late 2006, a breakthrough towards ending FGM in Indonesia occurred when the Ministry of Health banned doctors from performing it on the grounds that it was “potentially harmful”. The authorities, however, did not enforce the ruling. Hospitals continued to offer sunat perempuan for baby girls, often as part of discount birth packages that also included vaccinations and ear piercing. In the countryside, it was performed mainly by traditional midwives – women thought to have shamanic healing skills known as dukun – as it had been for centuries. The Indonesian method commonly involves cutting off part of the hood and/or tip of the clitoris with scissors, a blade or a piece of sharpened bamboo.
Last year, the situation regressed further. In early 2011, Indonesia’s parliament effectively reversed the ban on FGM by approving guidelines for trained doctors on how to perform it. The rationale was that, since the ban had failed, issuing guidelines would “safeguard the female reproductive system”, officials said. Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation, the Nahdlatul Ulama, also issued an edict telling its 30 million followers that it approved of female genital cutting, but that doctors “should not cut too much”.
The combined effect was to legitimise the practice all over again.
Andy Yentriyani, a commissioner at Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence Against Women. Yentriyani told me the problem is now worse than ever. Since the government’s guidelines on FGM came into effect last year, more hospitals have started offering the procedure.
“Doctors see the guidelines as a licence to make money,” she says.
In his visit to Indonesia in April this year, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron praised Indonesia as a model for nations in transition after the Arab Spring, praising its moderate Islam and its transformation from dictatorship.
More recently, SBY was ‘honoured’ by the UK for transforming the country.
Yes, he’s allowed the incorporation of the misogyny of the middle ages with the mindless consumerism of the the 21st century.
This image can be found at the website of Yayasan Assalaam in Bandung which preaches love, piety and tolerance during the fasting month of Ramadhan.
Since 1958, the foundation has held a sunat perempuan (female circumcision) “celebration” every year in the lunar month of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.
The foundation’s social welfare secretary, Lukman Hakim, was asked why they do it. His answer not only predates the dawn of religion, it predates human evolution: “It is necessary to control women’s sexual urges. They must be chaste to preserve their beauty.”
Andy Yentriyani, a commissioner at Indonesia’s National Commission on Violence Against Women, says that the recent endorsement of FGM by some Islamic leaders has vindicated those carrying out mass cutting ceremonies, such as the Assalaam foundation. “Women are caught in a power struggle between religion and state as Indonesia finds a new identity,” the activist explains. “Clamping down on morality, enforcing chastity, returning to so-called traditions such as female circumcision – these things help religious leaders to win hearts and minds.”
In February 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Indonesia paid a state visit to Indonesia. She applauded the democratization process in the country, referring to 10 years of reform since the 1998 ouster of dictator Suharto. She also mentioned the coexistence of Islam, democracy, modernity and women’s rights in the country.
In February this year she said that, although many cultural traditions must be respected, female genital cutting is not one of them. “It is, plain and simply, a human rights violation.”
Indeed, but will she now amend her previous statement?
I bet she won’t. After all, there are riches to be plundered by American conglomerates which are supposedly boosting Indonesia’s economy.