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19 Sep 2019 18:11
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  •   Home > News > International

    Female genital mutilation advertised on social media for as little as $10 in Indonesia

    Female genital mutilation is still rife in Indonesia where there are no laws to protect women from the practice, which some believe is a religious requirement.

    Bring your daughter to "mass circumcision" for $10, a Facebook advertisement in Indonesia's South Sulawesi province reads.

    WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions which may disturb some readers.

    In Indonesia's rural towns and cities, female genital mutilation in the form of circumcision is still in high demand by parents who believe it is a religious requirement.

    "Reach perfection through circumcision", the advertisement by community organisation Wahdah Islamiyah in the district of Jeneponto reads, asking for a contribution of 100,000 rupiah ($10.40).

    Henni Makkaraeng, a member of the female social and health division of Wahdah Islamiyah, told the ABC more than 100 girls between the ages of one and 14 had signed up to participate.

    "The clitoral membrane wrapped around the clitoris is cut open. That can increase sex hormones for women," she said, adding that the session includes an information session by a religious leader.

    The organisation also subsidises the procedure for families who can't afford the 100,000 rupiah fee, but wanted to get their daughters circumcised, she said.

    According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), female genital mutilation includes all procedures that involve partial or complete removal of female external genitalia, or any injury to female genitalia for non-medical reasons.

    The Indonesian Ministry of Women and Children found 51.2 per cent of female children from newborn to 11 years old have been circumcised, often because of a belief that it is part of the Islamic faith.

    Female circumcision occurs in most regions across the Indonesian archipelago, with the province of Gorontalo, on the island of Sulawesi, being one of the hotspots where nearly 84 per cent of all females are circumcised, according to government data in 2013.

    No health or medical benefits

    Bobby Hery Yudhanto, an Indonesian urology specialist in the city of Surabaya, refutes that the practice increases sexual pleasure, saying "it's only a myth".

    Dr Yudyanto said the practice had no medical benefits and can instead reduce sensitivity and cause permanent damage to the organs.

    Female circumcision can also cause medical complications if it touches deeper parts of the clitoris, he told the ABC.

    "It can also cause the closure of her urine hole," he said.

    The practice of mutilation, which includes female circumcision, happens in about 30 countries mainly across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, for cultural reasons, according to WHO.

    Indonesia currently has no laws to prevent the practice. There had been attempts to ban it but pushback from religious clerics meant they have ultimately failed.

    In recent years authorities have revoked laws that prevented health professionals from cutting or injuring female genitalia, to ensure practice of any female genital mutilation is performed safely.

    Father 'very sorry' for circumcising daughter

    Horizon Parpatih, a father in the city of Bandung in West Java, thought female circumcision was "natural" and in accordance with Islamic teaching.

    Along with his wife, he decided to circumcise their daughter when she was a baby.

    However, he said he realised he had made a mistake after researching why his wife could not get sexually stimulated — she had also been circumcised.

    "It has become a custom for people to [circumcise their daughters] … I was surprise when I found out the impact," he told the ABC, adding that he regretted his decision.

    "I am very sorry for ruining the future of my child's sexual life," he said.

    Maria Ulfah Anshor, a lecturer at Indonesia's Nahdlatul Ulama Islamic University, said the religious text for Muslims states that circumcision is intended for men, not women.

    However, the text is often open to individual interpretation, she said.

    "There are words that contain a lot of meaning, and that has the potential to be interpreted as including women," she said.

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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