Some time ago I discussed “circumcision” in my religious studies class. I downloaded the material to be discussed from http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/ . I intentionally selected the topic to introduce an idea about ‘female circumcision’ or people also call it as ‘female genital mutilation’. And, as I expected, all students did not know yet about the ‘existence’ of this disastrous ‘so-called’ tradition in some areas in the world.
To begin with, we talked about male circumcision. One male student of mine who just moved back from America to Indonesia around a year ago said that he and his older brother got circumcised after they arrived back in their home country. This particular student of mine is around 18 years old. When I asked him why he did that, he said his parents convinced him that it would be for his as well as his brother’s health advantage. He believed that circumcised penis is more hygienic. And after being circumcised he said that he felt his genital area was cleaner or it was easier for him to clean it.
Another student said that he did not get circumcised because his mother never talked about it. He believed if it were really good for his health, his mother would talk about it and offered him to have it or not. The statistic given in the material discussed – only around 30% of males in the world are circumcised – strengthened his opinion that circumcision is not important.
Two female students shared their stories when their brothers got circumcised. They said that their brothers got their penis circumcised after they had a discussion about it with their parents – especially their fathers : It is important that men get circumcised for medical advantage. Besides for medical reason, they believed that circumcision is compulsary because it is one religious obligation.
However, when finding out that in fact only the book of Genesis stating the importance of performing circumcision – and not in The New Testament nor in Alquran – my students started thinking that perhaps circumcision is carried out in some areas in the world due to cultural reasons and not religious instruction.
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION
As I wrote above in fact my students have never heard of female circumcision yet. They were never aware of this bloody inhumane practice. Their parents never talked about it to my students and nobody else has ever got them to know this. Since the Genesis only mentioned about male circumcision – and no verse at all in the New Testament or Alquran mentioning about it – we came to the conclusion that female circumcision – or female genital mutilation – is all due to cultures. (At least it is not supposed to be a part of Abrahamic faiths’ rite.)
“Why does it state that female circumcision is very painful while male circumcision is not? Or at least not that painful?” one student asked when the handout we discussed wrote “painful procedure.”
It is a painful procedure perhaps because in fact in women’s genital area there is nothing to be cut for any reason – for example for hygienic reason. If there is no hygienic nor religious reason, why do many people still do that nowadays?
Genital cutting is widespread within some African cultures and ethnic groups. It is seen as the climax of initiation, something that both boys and girls have to take part in before they are accepted as adults in the community. According to those who support this practice, the process of female genital cutting has practical merits in a physically harsh society. It is proof that the woman is mentally strong and able to deal with the difficult responsibilities of adult life. Nevertheless, representatives from many countries in Africa meet each year to discuss ways to end the practice because “female genital mutilation and cutting is a violation of the basic rights of women and girls. It is a dangerous and irreversible procedure that negatively impacts the general health, child bearing capabilities and educational opportunities of girls and women,” said Carol Bellamy, executive director of the UNICEF on February 7 2005, the International Day of Zero Tolerance of FGM.”
Girls in African countries undergoing female genital mutilation are usually still very young – six years old – so that it means the decision to have it is in the hands of their parents. The parents possibly do that due to social pressure and the girls cannot say ‘NO’ towards their parents while in fact those girls are the ones who will suffer from some negative impacts caused by FGM.
FEMALE CIRCUMCISION IN INDONESIA
Although the practice of FGM in Indonesia is not as ‘well-known’ as in Africa, we can still find it especially in rural areas despite the fact that the Indonesian government officially banned FGM in 2006. If in Africa female circumcision is considered as the climax of initiation before girls enter adulthood, what about in Indonesia? The article in this link said that there are three reasons why some foundations holding free circumcision events include female circumcision :
- · It will stabilize her libido
- · It will make a woman look more beautiful in the eyes of her husband
- · It will balance her psychology
The first reason strengthens what women activists have said that the practice is strongly misogynistic. Inferior and weak men need to do something to ‘calm’ (or conquer?) women’s sexual drive. In order to make themselves sexually powerful, they must weaken women first. Besides doing this ‘physical thing’ they also create false true woman precept: a true woman must be libido-less.
The second reason is illogical since the criteria of being beautiful is different from one person to another. While the third reason is very wrong since FGM even can cause some negative impacts. FGM also can result in a lifetime trauma, moreover when done by not an expert and using non hygienic media.
The same article reported that female circumcision in Indonesia is less extreme than the kind practiced in other parts of the globe – Africa particularly. Despite some studies done on it informing that female circumcision in Indonesia is done by merely rubbing turmeric on the genitals or pricking the clitoris once with a needle to draw a symbolic drop of blood, the Population Council’s 2003 study said that 82 percent of Indonesian mothers who witnessed their daughters’ circumcision said that it involved ‘cutting’. Another article at this link stated that “while the procedure in Indonesia is not as severe as in parts in Africa and involves cutting less flesh, it still poses a serious health concern.”
“The fact is there is absolutely no medical value in circumcising girls. It is 100 percent the wrong thing to be doing,” said Laura Guarenti, an obstetrician and WHO’s medical officer for child and maternal health in Jakarta.
There is no medical value nor cultural tradition nor religious merit in female circumcision. The Indonesian government banned the practice in 2006. So, what caused the even more widely-found practice in society? Social unawareness! Ignorance! Misogyny! In order to make it safer, the effort proposed by Linda Gumilar, the Minister of Women’s Empowerment, to make the female circumcision practice medicalized and carried out by trained health personnel will make it sound misleadingly lawful.
Maria Ulfah Anshor – one women’s rights fighter – said, “I would advise not to circumcise your daughters at all. It women are circumcised, people believe they become more beautiful and not as wild and will make men more excited in bed. For women themselves, they don’t get any excitement at all.”
When male circumcision possibly has medical benefits and it is somewhat strongly encouraged from religious views – it is written in the book of Genesis – female circumcision has no medical benefits at all for women and it is not written either in any so-called holy book. The root of it is just misogyny that dates back from immemorial time.
GL7 12.06 110612