FGM raises its ugly head in Sri Lanka with Kerala Support


By Bintari Hamza Zafar


FGM also kindly referred to as female circumcision is being promoted among Sri Lanka’s Muslim women with the support from Islamic clerics based in Kerala. The ACJU, Sri Lanka’s top organization of religious scholars has endorsed the practice as an obligatory Islamic duty and many Muslim religious scholars are supporting it. They are even preaching from the pulpits saying it is obligatory and that women who are not circumcised are unclean and giving their husbands diseases like AIDS, cancer and other STDs. What is most disturbing is the procedure is now being openly promoted by both Alims (male Islamic Scholars) and Alimas (female Islamic scholars) at Wahhabi Arabic Ladies Colleges for Muslim girls in places like Malwana and Kal-Eliya based on what the female students of these madrasas revealed to an undercover reporter we sent to investigate.

Our investigations revealed that one controversial preacher from an extremist local seminary (madrasa) has been going around the country openly promoting it in his sermons and preaching it is obligatory. This scholar has connections with extremist scholars in Kerala, especially with the Sunni Yuvajana Sangham, a part of the Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama.This firebrand mullah recently led a group of Aalims (religious scholars) to Kerala and we understand he visited the SYS and met with its leaders. He also took along his wife, a qualified Alimah who is known to be promoting it aggressively among her female followers here in Sri Lanka.

This development is relevant in the light of the findings of an Indian NGO Sahiyo which exposed how prevalent the practice was in Kerala. The undercover reporter from this anti-FGM group exposed one such clinic in Kozhikade (Calicut) where two doctors admitted that they perform the procedure of sunnath”, or circumcision, on both boys and girls. They claimed that women from several local Muslim sects are increasingly coming to their clinic to have sunnath performed for themselves, their daughters and even their daughters-in-law. The doctors said that in the female circumcision ritual, they cut the prepuce of the clitoris, also known as the clitoral hood because it is allegedly good for married life”. They also mentioned that some husbands insist on it”. The doctors claimed that this ritual is also practiced in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Africa, but denied that it could be harmful.

The lady doctor claimed that the practice was now growing popular among Muslim women from many sects” in Kerala and that she performed it for girls and women of any age”. The doctors apply local anesthesia before the cutting, and they claim the wound takes five days to heal.  It is better to do it when the girl is a baby,” the lady doctor had said. But these days a lot of women prefer to get it done for themselves immediately after delivering their baby when they’re also getting other stitches to their vagina. That way they have to deal with two pains in one go.” According to the doctors, some women also ask for sunnath after delivery because delivery lessens sexual pleasure and the sunnath helps enhance it”. The lady doctor also offers pre- and post-marriage counseling at the clinic, and she claimed that she recommends sunnath for women during such counseling to allegedly improve their sex lives. Once their sex life is better, their marriage will also be happy,” she said.

One such clinic, Daru Shifa in Kozhikade has been very popular among Sri Lankan Muslim women visiting Kerala as an informant working in the clinic informed us. It is very probable that local Muslim women were visiting the clinic to get circumcised in what is said to be ‘the Sunna style’ where the foreskin over the clitoris is removed. Such facilities do not exist in Sri Lanka and it seems this form of ‘medical tourism’ is catching on in Kerala which offers proper circumcision under anesthesia in hygienic conditions. There has been a surge of Sri Lankan Muslim women visiting Kerala of late and it may be concluded that the purpose of their visits is to have themselves and their daughters circumcised.