A victim of a botched female circumcision procedure has spoken out against the practice and has urged Muslim parents against circumcising their daughters.
Female circumcision – Sunat Perempuan as it is known in Malay – is a procedure that involves cutting part of a woman’s genitalia and can range from a partial cut of the tip of the clitoris, the removal of sensitive tissue in the genitalia, the full removal of the clitoris or the sewing up of the labia.
The procedure, also known as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), is typically carried out on girls before they turn two years old. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that more than 200 million women and girls around the world have undergone FGM, which is believed to decrease a woman’s libido and reduce the risk of extramarital sexual affairs.
In Singapore, Sunat Perempuan is legal and there is no legal ruling against it. Malay Muslims, who most commonly observe the practice in Singapore, take guidance from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) statutory board.
While Ibrahim Sawifi of MUIS has told the BBC that MUIS “does not condone any procedures which bring harm to the individual” and that the statutory board “always held the position that FGM should be avoided,” some believe that Sunat Perempuan is a compulsory part of Islamic law although it is not listed as a mandatory precept in the Koran.
One academic, Dr Maznah Mohamad of the Department of Malay Studies at the National University of Singapore, told the BBC that a woman “gets extra merit” if they have been circumcised but noted that “it is not considered sinful or going against the precepts of Islam” if the procedure is not performed.
She added: “But people are still afraid of going against Islam if they don’t subject their young daughter to it.”
Many in the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore have spoken up against Sunat Perempuan in the past and have urged MUIS to encourage discourse on the matter. The latest voice joining this call is a netizen who says she has undergone a botched FGM procedure.
Urging parents against circumcising their daughters, Reddit user u/fanboyslose wrote: “As a victim of a botched female circumcision (sunat perempuan), in Singapore, I have struggled with its aftermath all my life.
“I would like to make sure other Singaporean women don’t have to endure what I did. It is a hard topic for many people to talk about but I feel it needs to be addressed.
“I believe spreading awareness to the Singaporean Muslim community is our best hope to end the practice once and for all.”
In a separate comment, the netizen bravely shed more light about what she personally went through and how it impacts her to this day. She shared: “My mum told me that when I was circumcised, they accidentally made an incision into my clitoris when it was supposed to be a cut on just the clitoral hood.
“It was done when I was a baby in the 90s, at a clinic. The doctor apparently told my parents that it will heal and won’t be a problem. However, I feel the shame of being cut whenever I look at myself.”
The netizen called on those reading her post to spark a discussion about Sunat Perempuan with their friends and families. Pointing out that parents would simply have the procedure done in Malaysia if they are not educated about the dangers of FGM and Singapore bans the procedure, she added:
“There are so many variations, and since there is no regulation in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia, there is no standard procedure at all. The people who are doing it aren’t even taught about this in medical school. So, even if it is done in clinics, doctors nor nurses are never taught about this in school. There are no curriculum on it.
“I don’t know if there are still traditional mid-wives in Singapore, but during my mother’s time, there were many mid-wives who simply did the procedure. These people weren’t even doctors. In Malaysia, traditional midwives still do the procedure if a couple wants it done to their children.”
Sharing a video by prominent anti-FGM activist Filzah Sumartono who talks about preventing female circumcision in Singapore and why banning the practice itself is not enough to put an end to FGM, the netizen asserted: “The only real way to end the cycle of abuse would be to educate young Muslim parents.”