When Conflicting Messages Result in Endangering Indonesian Women and Children

By N Mark Castro

In light of the United Nations’ non-binding resolution admonishing participating countries to legislate for and enforce laws against female genital mutilation, the Indonesian government fails yet again to present a clear message to its citizens, hence, confusing the public and allowing conservative groups to receive a platform in promoting their agenda, including the controversial position of the highly irrelevant Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), which claims that female circumcision is part of Islamic teachings and a constitutional right.

MUI chairman Ma’ruf Amin has been reported as calling on hospital and health centers in the country to provide the service to people who would want their daughters circumcised. This is the same MUI that has been accused several times of irresponsible issuance of fatwas against the Christmas greetings to fellow Indonesians, pluralism on which this country is founded on, liberal thinking, to name a few.

The practice of female circumcision was officially banned by the Indonesian Ministry of Health in 2006 on the grounds that it was potentially harmful.

But in 2010, the Government created confusion when it issued a ministerial regulation outlining how the practice should be carried out by medical doctors.


Some claim that it is cultural and religious, while others have described it as an attempt to control the sexual urges of young females. Whether or not it violates the reproductive system of a woman, one thing is certain, it endangers their lives. And the worse part is, aside from having no medical or hygienic purposes, young children have no choice in the matter.

There are progressive Indonesian medical doctors — who are dedicated Moslems — that also object to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and have voiced their concerns on the issue, providing a forum and making their email address available.

And because of the government’s failure to issue a cohesive voice in addressing FGM, it has inadvertently supported the practice, which basically stems from the erroneous interpretation of cultural and religious teachings.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 140 million females across the globe are living with the consequences of the procedure at the moment.


There are three main types of circumcision:

photoThe removal of the tip of the clitoris
Total removal of the clitoris and surrounding labia
The removal of the clitoris and labia and the sewing up of the vagina, leaving only a small opening for urine and menstrual blood – a process known as infibulation.

So drastic is the mutilation involved in the latter operation that young brides have to be cut open to allow penetration on their wedding night and are customarily sewn up afterwards.


FGM has no health benefits, and it harms girls and women in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and interferes with the natural functions of girls’ and women’s bodies.

Immediate complications can include severe pain, shock, hemorrhage (bleeding), tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue.

Long-term consequences can include:

  1. Recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections
  2. Cysts
  3. Infertility
  4. An increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths
  5. Need for later surgeries

For example, the FGM procedure that seals or narrows a vaginal opening needs to be cut open later to allow for sexual intercourse and childbirth. Sometimes it is stitched again several times, including after childbirth, hence the woman goes through repeated opening and closing procedures, further increasing and repeated both immediate and long-term risks.

Imagine your daughter, your sister … subjected by your parents because of their irrational belief over someone erroneously interpreting a Holy Book that has been adapted to the times. Imagine the pain. Imagine the helplessness. All for what?

I spare you of the details … imagine no more …

Cat wants new haircut


About Asmartrock

N. Mark Castro is the Southeast Asia Director of JUMP DIGITAL Asia, which is an internationally-awarded and fully integrated digital marketing agency with 5 out of 10 offices in the ASEAN region. He is also the Secretary General of the Philippine Business Club Indonesia, managing and assisting the traffic of investments between the Philippines and Indonesia. He shuttles between Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Cambodia, and Australia. The views posted here are his own and do not in any way reflect the views of the companies he represents.

Posted on February 5, 2013, in Fatherhood, General, Politics, Religion and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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