A United Nations report reveals that 49% of all Indonesian girls under the age of 15 have undergone a form of genital mutilation (also known as female circumcision). This report contradicts Indonesia’s reputation as a relatively progressive Muslim nation.
As defined by the World Health Organization, female genital mutilation (FGM) “compromises all procedures that involve altering or injuring the female genitalia for non-medical reasons and is recognized internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women.”
FGM is typically performed on young girls ranging from infancy to 15 years old. FGM can cause severe bleeding and health issues such as cysts, infections, infertility, as well as many complications during childbirth and an increased risk of newborn deaths.
The UN estimates that 200 million females in 30 countries alive today have undergone some form of FGM procedure. Of that number, over half of these women and girls reside in just three countries – Indonesia, Egypt, and Ethiopia. The report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) noted that on a global scale female genital mutilation is declining, but not all countries have achieved such progress causing the overall decrease in FGM to be insufficient. With the continuous rise in the human population, if these current trends continue, 15 million additional girls between ages 15 and 19 will be subjected to FGM by 2030.
Until recently, FGM has typically been thought to be most prominent Africa and the Middle East. However, with this new information about Indonesia there’s concern that its prevalence around the globe may still be underestimated.
As with most FGM practices, female circumcision in Indonesia is deeply rooted in traditional cultural practices such as coming of age rituals for young girls. Although FGM can dramatically vary in severity, the most prevalent form of FGM in Indonesian is the process of scraping the clitoral hood, without injuring the clitoris. This method has been deemed considerably less severe than approaches common on the African continent. The chief of UNICEF’s child protection unit, Loren Rumble posed the question “is it still mutilation if it is only a scratch?” She stated “absolutely, yes.”
— United Nations (@UN) February 6, 2016
To promote the abandonment of FGM, the UN advocates coordinated and systematic efforts, engaging whole communities and with a focus on human rights and gender equality. UNFPA and UNICEF have an ambitious program to improve the lives of girls and women by 2030 by promoting their health, education and gender equality.
A key goal is to eliminate FGM entirely. According to the UN Secretary-General, “when this practice is fully abandoned, positive effects will reverberate across societies as girls and women reclaim their health, human rights and vast potential.”