Zafigo x SIS: Changing Perceptions On Female Circumcision In Malaysia

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Zafigo Editor, Tengku Zai chats with Sisters in Islam’s Legal Officer, Ireeny Muzammel, about female circumcision. A form of female genital mutilation, why is it still so prevalent in Malaysia? Well, it’s all about perception. (Image by Xin Xin Lee.)

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Female circumcision. For something that happens to so many of us Malaysian girls — predominantly Muslim girls — it’s a violation we rarely talk about. Most Malaysians also don’t seem to acknowledge that female circumcision is a form of female genital mutilation (FGM). An alarming 93% of Muslim women in Malaysia go through some form of FGM, while an even more alarming 200 million girls and women worldwide have been circumcised.

Suffice to say, FGM isn’t exclusively a Malaysian problem as other countries (especially in Africa and throughout Asia) perform the act. But with our National Fatwa Council issuing a religious edict in 2009 that it should be done, it’s a big problem here. Thus, most Malaysians cite religious obligations as their reason for doing it to their daughters, believing they’re doing the right thing. This is also despite there being no religious texts supporting female circumcision.

Unlike male circumcision, which poses medical benefits besides easier hygiene, including a decreased risk of urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, penile cancer, and so on, female circumcision poses no benefit. Neither is it a medically regulated practice — making it a dangerous one. Besides benefiting men and boys, studies have also shown a reduced risk of human papillomavirus, genital ulcers, herpes simplex virus type 2, syphilis, bacterial vaginosis, and T vaginalis in women whose male partners are circumcised.

For more insight into female circumcision in Malaysia, Zafigo Editor Tengku Zai has a chat with Sisters in Islam‘s Legal Officer, Ireeny Muzammel. When all’s said and done, the best way for us to stop this assault on young girls is by changing perceptions. Remember, we have no enemies — only future allies.

For more information about female circumcision and the other rights of women in accordance to Islam, visit the Sisters in Islam website. You may also learn more about female circumcision in Malaysia at the following Sisters in Islam links:

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Going by the nickname Kuzai, the Kelantan native has spent 15 years in the wonderful world of publishing, formerly managing the beauty sections of glossies including ELLE and Harper’s BAZAAR. Now, Kuzai is the Editor of Zafigo. The wannabe runner is also mom to a feisty toddler, suffers from constant wanderlust, and really just works to eat, travel, and shop.