Indonesia: Government regulation on female circumcision must be repealed

Solidaritas Perempuan

Indonesian authorities must immediately repeal the newly issued government regulation permitting female circumcision (‘sunat perempuan’), and instead enact specific legislation with appropriate penalties prohibiting all forms of female genital mutilation (FGM). The new regulation legitimizes the practice of female genital mutilation and authorizes certain medical professionals, such as doctors, midwives and nurses, to perform it. The new regulation defines this practice as “the act of scratching the skin covering the front of the clitoris, without hurting the clitoris”. The procedure includes “a scratch on the skin covering the front of clitoris (frenulum clitoris) using the head of a single use sterile needle” (Article 4.2 (g)). According to the new regulation, the act of female circumcision can only be conducted with the request and consent of the person circumcised, parents, and/or guardians.

The new regulation by the Ministry of Health (No. 1636/MENKES/PER/XI/2010) concerning female circumcision, issued in November 2010, runs counter to the government’s steps to enhance gender equality and combat discrimination against women in all its forms. It violates a number of Indonesian laws, including Law No. 7/1984 on the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Law No. 23/2002 on Child Protection.  

Female genital mutilation constitutes a form of violence against women which should be eradicated. Where the state fails to effectively challenge these practices, it reinforces the perception that others are entitled to control a woman’s or a girl’s sexuality, that is, to decide on her behalf under what circumstances she should (or should not) engage in sexual activity. Amnesty International is concerned that this regulation condones and encourages female genital mutilation, a practice which inflicts pain and suffering on women and girls, and hence violates the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. Female genital mutilation also encourages discriminatory stereotypes about women’s sexuality.

As documented in a 2010 report, Left without a choice: Barriers to reproductive health in Indonesia, Amnesty International was told by many women and girls that they chose female genital mutilation for their own baby girl in recent years. The practice is generally undertaken by a traditional birth attendant within the first six weeks after the baby girl is born. The women said they had asked that their baby girl have female genital mutilation performed for religious reasons. Other reasons women cited ranged from wanting to ensure the girl’s “cleanliness” (the external female genitalia are considered dirty) and avoiding diseases; to perpetuating cultural or local practices; to seeking to regulate or suppress the girls’ urge towards “sexual activity” during adulthood. Some women described the procedure as being merely a “symbolic scratch”, while in other cases they explained that it consisted of cutting a small piece of the clitoris. Many women interviewed agreed that there would be some bleeding as a result.

Irrespective of the extent of the procedure, the practice of female genital mutilation highlights discriminatory stereotypes about female genitalia being “dirty” or degraded, that women are not entitled to make their own choices about sexuality in the same way as men, and that women and girls can only be fully dignified in their religious practice if their bodies are altered, hence that there is something inherently wrong about women’s bodies. Attitudes which denigrate women because of their actual or perceived sexuality are often used to justify violence against women.

In its 2007 concluding observations, the CEDAW Committee recommended that Indonesia develop a plan of action to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation, including implementing public awareness-raising campaigns to change the cultural perceptions connected with it, and provide education regarding the practice as a violation of the human rights of women and girls that has no basis in religion.

As state party to CEDAW, the Indonesian authorities must immediately revoke the Regulation of the Minister of Health No. 1636/MENKES/PER/XI/2010 concerning female circumcision, and ensure that they comply fully with the provisions that are contained in CEDAW.

Jakarta, 23 June 2011

This joint statement endorsed by :

  1. Aliansi Pelangi Antar Bangsa
  2. AMAN foundation Kalkata India
  3. Amnesty Internasional
  4. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law, and Development (APWLD)
  5. Asian Moslem Action Network (AMAN) Indonesia
  6. Barisan Perempuan Indonesia
  7. BITES
  8. CEDAW Working Group Initiative
  9. Evelyne Accad (Professeur Emerite, University of Illinois, Lebanese American University)
  10. Federasi LBH APIK Indonesia
  11. GemaPalu, Lumajang
  12. Indonesia Support Facility (InSuFa)
  13. Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP)
  14. INFORM Documentation Centre, Srilangka
  15. Institut Perempuan
  16. IRSAD (Institute for Religion and Sustainable Development), Sumatera Barat
  17. Jaringan Kerja Prolegnas Pro Perempuan
  18. Julia Suryakusuma (Individu)
  19. Kalyanamitra
  20. Kartini Asia Network
  21. KePPaK PEREMPUAN Pusat serta KePPaK PEREMPUAN Komisariat  :
    Kepulauan Riau, Sumatera Selatan, Bangka-Belitung, Banten, DKI Jakarta, Jawa Barat, Jawa Tengah, Jawa Timur, Bali, Nusa Tenggara Barat, Nusa Tenggara Timur, Kalimantan Barat, Kalimantan Tengah, Kalimantan Selatan, Kalimantan Timur, Sulawesi Utara, Sulawesi Selatan, Sulawesi Barat, Sulawesi Tenggara
  22. Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia
  23. Mitra Perempuan
  24. Pelpem GKPS
  25. Perempuan Mahardhika
  26. Perkumpulan Keluarga Berencana Indonesia
  27. Puan Amal Hayati
  28. Rahima
  29. Rumpun Gema Perempuan
  30. Sisters In Islam, Malaysia
  31. Solidaritas Perempuan
  32. Southeast Women’s Caucus on ASEAN
  33. Women for Women’s Human Rights, Istanbul, Turki
  34. YAKKUM
  35. Yayasan Jurnal Perempuan
  36. Yayasan Walang Perempuan- Ambon
  37. SA-KPPD
  38. Nunung Fatma
  39. Prof. Dr Saskia E. Wieringa, University of Amsterdam
  40. Dr. Free hearty, WOHAI
  41. Nasawiya, The Feminist Collective
  42. Aceh Peace Consultative Management/APCM
  43. Muntada-Arab Forum for Sexuality Education & Health
  44. Matepe Makassar
  45. Nino Viartasiwi, Individu
  46. GSIR Ritsumeikan University
  47. Kyoto-JAPAN
  48. Viena Tanjung, Herlounge
  49. Perkumpulan Rumah Perempuan Jember
  50. Raising Her Voice
  51. Institut Hak Asasi Perempuan (IHAP) Yogyakarta
  52. PLU Satu Hati
  53. Firliana Purwanti
  54. Maesy Angelina
  55. Pergerakan Indonesia
  56. Asian Women's Resource Centre (AWRC) for Culture and Theology
  57. Ourvoice
  58. Indonesia AIDS Coalition
  59. Aliansi Sumut Bersatu (ASB)
  60. Mufti Makaarim al-Ahlaq, The Institute for Defense, Security and Peace Studies (IDSPS)
  62. mitra-華友-femivegi
  63. PT SUSDEC member of LPTP, Solo
  65. SAPA Institute
  66. Perkumpulan Cut Nyak Dien
  67. ATKI
  68. Witryna Anna Gostkawskiej
  70. Asian Muslim Action Network (AMAN) Thailand
  71. Ardhanary Institute
  72. Nurul Sutarti, Yayasan Krida Paramita Surakarta
  73. Lembaga Partisipasi Perempuan
  74. Fahmina Institute
  75. Solidaritas Perempuan Kinasih Yogyakarta
  76. Rita
  77. Pusat Pendidikan & Advokasi Masyarakat Marginal (Perkumpulan PEDULI di Medan)
  78. Perkumpulan IDEA Yogyakarta
  79. HRWG
  80. Sahabat Perempuan dan Anak Indonesia (SAPA Indonesia)
  81. Konsorsium untuk Kepemimpinan Politik Perempuan Jawa Barat (KPPP Jabar)