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Female circumcision: Culture and religion in Malaysia sees millions of girls undergoing cutting – World News


13 November 2018 06:14:33

Fa Abdul was nine years old when she found out she was circumcised when she was just a baby.


  • A study in 2012 showed that 93 percent of Muslim women in Malaysia have been circumcised
  • Female circumcision is not prescribed in the Koran or Hadiths, says female lawyers
  • A mother says that Malaysia's culture and society "expected to do it"

She was among the millions of girls across Malaysia whose families believe that female circumcision protects young girls from committing "sins".

"Many Muslims in Malaysia will tell that circumcision will protect girls from growing up and getting wild," said Abdul.

Abdul talked to ABC about her experience for a new documentary – titled The Hidden Cut – released last week.

Chen Yih Wen, a leading producer from the group behind the documentary R.AGE, said the team started documenting after Malaysia was criticized at a UN forum in February.

The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, held in Switzerland, overthrew the continued pursuit of female circumcision or female genital mutilation.

The documentaries discovered that the procedures are performed in private clinics and not regulated.

"The government said they developed guidelines in 2012, but none of the doctors we interviewed said they got it," Wen said.

Abdul – who is a journalist and works on the online news publication Malaysiakini – gave birth to her first child, a girl, at the age of 20.

"You just follow and stop asking questions"

Due to religious and family press, her daughter was subjected to female circumcision.

"The doctor pulled out the labia and used something that looked like a needle to wipe the clitoris," she said.

"ONE [flow] of blood came out and then my daughter started crying. "

A decade later, Abdul's view of female circumcision changed dramatically after she discovered that there was no medical benefit and that it was merely a religious ordinator.

"We were already born in culture and society expected to do that," she said.

"Make it happen automatically, you just follow and stop asking questions.

"I was young and naive and I actually did not know what I was doing – the question I asked was:" if it's pointless, why do we do that? ""

"We confuse it with Islam"

A women's rights group based in Kuala Lumpur – called Sisters of Islam – told ABC that female circumcision is widely accepted in Malaysia because of an increasing conservative movement.

In countries where Islam is the majority religion, according to Islas sisters, there is a tendency to "Islamize all".

"People have the fear of questioning practice, as if they question God," said Syarifatul Adibah, a senior program officer from the sisters of Islam.

"[Female circumcision] is not prescribed by the Qur'an or the Hadites [a collection of Prophet Muhammad’s sayings], Adibah added.

"But when they consider something like a religious ordain or fatwa, it's hard for people to really challenge and debate the issue."

In 2009, the National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs (JAKIM) in Malaysia ruled that female circumcision became mandatory, moved from recommended, but if harmful has to be avoided.

As a result, three years later, a study by Dr Maznah Dahlui of the Department of Social and Preventive Medical University in Malaya discovered that 93 percent of the Muslim women examined had been circumcised.

More than 80 percent of respondents said religious obligations were behind the reason, while 16 percent said that they were controlling sexual entities.

Abdul said that society often does many things that copy behavior from African and Arab countries and defend it as a religious origin.

"We confuse it with Islam and we think whatever they do is islamic," she said.

She also said regardless of religion or culture tradition, parents have no rights to do what they want to do for their children.

"Not just women, but every human being is entitled to his own body," she said.

ABC contacted the Malaysia Ministry of Health, Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia and Penang Medical College, but they did not respond to requests for comments.



Womens status,

Human Rights,

sexual health,






First posted

13 November 2018 06:12:15

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