Activists decry state-condoned female circumcision


A young girl waits as hundreds of Muslim families on motocycles queue wait to board a ferry headed for Java island from the port of Gilimanuk in 2008.



Female circumcision typically evokes remote stretches of Islamic Africa or fundamentalist emirates in the Middle East.

But it's also surprisingly common in Indonesia where, according to a 2003 Population Council report, more than 95 percent of female babies are circumcised in many strictly Islamic communities.

Women surveyed cited the familiar reason for the cut: it stems sexual pleasure, ridding wives of the temptation to cheat.

Those who choose a traditional shaman, as opposed to a trained midwife, can even incorporate chicken and curry powder into circumcision rituals to "ensure that the child would later become a good cook," the report said. Some hospitals even include female circumcision in their routine infant delivery services.

But more than 170 NGOs, including Amnesty International, are now demanding an end to the practice. They're irate that Indonesia's Ministry of Health has quasi-condoned it by dictating the proper way to perform the snip in official documents.

What does the nation's arbiter of Islamic morality, the Council of Ulema, have to say?

According to the Jakarta Globe, the group says it's allowable but not mandated. But, they cautioned, the government should not be allowed to outright ban the clipping off of female babies' clitoral hoods

Meanwhile, the Globe reports, the former head of an Indonesian doctors' society claims some ultra-Islamic Indonesian communities are going so far as to remove girls' clitorises entirely.