Sunday, December 16, 2012

Malaysia Poised To Re-Classify Female Genital Mutilation As Medical Practice

There is debate about whether male circumcision is a necessary procedure, but most will agree that there are health benefits associated with removal of the foreskin.  On the other hand, female circumcision, or the far more appropriate term "female genital mutilation" (FGM), is nothing more than that- mutilation and torture, a surgery that can cause women terrible, lifelong physical problems. There is absolutely no medical necessity to remove the female genitalia, but the Malaysian health ministry is trying to re-classify what should be considered an abomination as a medical practice.

In 2009, the Fatwa Committee of Malaysia's National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs ruled that "female circumcision", as it has become known, was obligatory for Muslims but if harmful must be avoided.

Human rights activist Azrul Mohamad Khalib has written a scathing commentary calling for abolition of the practice.

He says it has no religious or medical benefits.

Problem is, it's a practice that already is firmly rooted in the society and culture in what is considered to be a moderate Muslim nation. According to a university survey, the bulk of Malay females who are Muslim have already been subjected to FGM.  In fact, 90% of the 1,000 or so women surveyed had been mutilated.

Khalib who is also involved with the International Planned Parenthood Federation found the results:

"both surprising and a little bit disappointing".

And his response to reclassifying FGM as a medical practice, which up until now has mostly been performed by private practitioners:

"One of the things I find quite alarming with regards to this development is that the Ministry of Health is actually depending on a fatwa, a religious opinion that was actually issued by the national fatwa council, in which they made it obligatory, or 'wajib', for all Muslim women to be circumcised.

"It seems that the Ministry of Health is now (instituting) that fatwa.

"So, in contrary to quite a number of best practices as well as a WHO (World Health Organisation) advisory, the Ministry of Health is taking steps now to sort of make it standardised, or medicalised, in such a way that it might be applied to all public health-care facilities."

"One of the things that those working on gender issues in Malaysia have come to realise is that a barrier when we deal with these sort of issues is the lack of awareness - the 'why' of such practices and how harmful it can be.

"Certainly when it comes to female circumcision, the position that has been taken is that if it does do no harm why not do it? Well . . . if there are no benefits to doing it, why do it?

"One of the first steps that we are trying to push out forward is that we are very much trying to spread awareness that such practices are unnecessary.

"They're not required by religion, they're not having any medical benefits whatsoever and certainly when we look at it it's strictly cultural in its entirety.

"But as you mentioned, it is going to be extremely hard if more than 90 per cent of the Malay Muslim population already practising it."

Rather than re-classifying the procedure they should do some heavy duty re-education, but that will never happen because FGM is just another means of controlling women.

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