LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Indonesia should stop allowing doctors, midwives and other health workers to carry out female genital mutilation (FGM) on children and babies as young as six months, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (OHCHR) has said. The committee also urged the country to pass legislation banning any form of FGM and to put in place penalties that reflect the “gravity of this offence”, which campaigners say is a serious human rights violation. OHCHR made its comments on Friday in observations on the state of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The “medicalisation” of FGM – a term used for when the practice is performed by health practitioners – has emerged as a trend in several countries and campaigners say it is setting back global efforts to eradicate the ancient ritual. It is also seen as one of the biggest risk factors as it is often seen as legitimising FGM.
But Indonesia says it is better medically trained people carry out the procedure to avoid parents resorting to traditional circumcisers who might endanger their daughters’ health. “Medicalised FGM is on the rise,” Efua Dorkenoo, advocacy director of Equality Now’s FGM programme told Thomson Reuters Foundation. This is not just the case in Indonesia, but also in Kenya, Nigeria and in countries where bodies representing health professionals fail to take strong action against it, she added.
In Indonesia’s case, medicalised FGM was allowed following a fatwa – a ruling by a religious authority – and this came after a ban on FGM was reversed on the grounds it had led to an increase in the practice by non-medical practitioners. Following the fatwa, the ministry of health issued a regulation in 2010 permitting medicalised FGM, which goes against a number of international resolutions and treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), of which Indonesia is a signatory, according to Equality Now. “We tried all kinds of actions – not just [through] the government but … through international medical associations to bring pressure in terms of violations of various treaties that they have ratified on this [the medicalisation of FGM] – and they’ve not been successful,” Dorkenoo said.