Malaysiakini News

Women’s ministry defends infant female circumcision at UN human rights review

Published:  |  Modified:

At Malaysia’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights last night, a representative of the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry defended the ongoing practice of the circumcision of female infants in the country as a “cultural obligation”.

According to the Malay Mail, the representative, who was not named, had said so in response to recommendations from Swedish and Danish delegates.

“Malaysia objects to any practices that are harmful to young female babies and children.

“Malaysia does not practise female genital mutilation (FGM), but the practice of female circumcision on babies is allowed as it is part of a cultural obligation.

“[...] The type of circumcision practised is very mild and does not involve any cutting.

“The Health Ministry provides a guideline which specifies only accredited medical professionals are allowed to perform the procedure,” the representative was reported to have said at the review in Geneva, Switzerland, which was broadcast live.

The UN's World Health Organisation (WHO) stipulates that female circumcision is a form of FGM as it harms the health of women and girls, constituting an “extreme” form of discrimination against women.

Meanwhile, Germany, Australia, Canada, Chile, Argentina and the United States urged Malaysia to stop discriminating against the LGBT community.

The same representative was reported to have answered that the Pakatan Harapan government “upholds the rights and dignities of all persons in Malaysia in accordance with the law”.

According to the daily, he also cited Article 8(2) of the Federal Constitution which outlaws discrimination against citizens on the basis of religion, race, descent, place of birth or gender.

Activists condemn FGM

At a UPR viewing session in Kuala Lumpur last night, the daily reported that several activists had condemned the ministry representative’s response about female infant circumcision in the country.

Justice for Sisters researcher S Thilaga said that the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw), which Malaysia has signed, ruled that the practice was indeed FGM.

“We do not want any kind of cutting, nipping of the (female sexual) organ as a whole.

“I think that is the basic idea of what was recommended by some delegates (from other countries),” she had said.

Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor communications manager Mastura M Rashid questioned why the practice was allowed to continue.

“It was created to suppress the supposed sexual urges of women, and in 2018, as a society upholding gender equality, we should move away from cutting genitals.

“Reports from around the world have stated there is no medical benefit to FGM. If so, why is it then continued just on a cultural basis?” she was quoted as saying.

The viewing session had been organised by Suhakam and the Coalition of NGOs in the UPR Process (Comango).

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