Reported increase in practice of female circumcision raises alarm

Claims that female circumcision is rising in practice in the Maldives have triggered alarm across the government and NGO sector.

“We are beginning to hear reports of this occurring, and I have heard on radio and television people justifying the practice. It is quite disheartening,” said Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan, speaking at a UN event last week.

Then-Attorney General Husnu Suood raised concern in December 2009 that female circumcision in the name of Islam had been revived in Addu Atoll, claiming that religious scholars “are going around to midwives giving fatwas that girls have to be circumcised. They’re giving fatwas saying it is religiously compulsory. According to my information, the circumcising of girls has started and is going on with a new spirit.”

Minivan News subsequently traveled to Addu to investigate the matter and meet with sources, but was unable to determine if the practice was indeed occurring.

Speaking last week, Dr Waheed did not pinpoint a specific area where female circumcision was taking place, but attributed the “general trend” to “rising conservatism and traditional values imported from other parts of the world.”

“Mostly this is a failure of education – there are not enough opportunities for higher education and many students receive free offers to go to madrassas in places like Pakistan, where they learn very traditional values,” Dr Waheed said.

A source from the Health Ministry’s Department of Gender and Family Protection told Minivan News that while female circumcision was widely known to have occurred in the Maldives, it stopped in the 80s and 90s but “now we are hearing media reports that it is happening again.”

The Ministry was not aware where the practice was occurring, but said it intended to investigate.

“There is no formal reporting happening in the islands,” she said. “We have been trying to get reports but health facilities are not aware of the situation.”

Deputy Health Minister Fathimath Afiya meanwhile confirmed that the Ministry was sufficiently concerned to launch a study seeking to identify where female circumcision was occuring.

“There are no reports but NGOs have been talking about it,” she said, stating the Ministry had held a series of meetings on the subject after it received a letter voicing concern from NGO ‘Hope for Women’.

Interim President of that NGO, former Gender Minister Aneesa Ahmed, confirmed to Minivan News today that “some Islamic organisations are advocating this and people are having girls circumcised. I don’t know where and when, but I have heard people say on various programs including Raajje radio.

“I heard two Islamic scholars speaking, and this woman called the radio station and asked two Islamic scholars on the program what Islam said about [female circumcision], and the scholar said yes, that the Prophet Mohamed advocated that girls be circumcised. My concern is that scholars are advocating this has to be done according to Islam, people will not question it and start circumcising girls.”

Aneesa said a representative from the NGO had met with State Minister for Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Hussein Rasheed, who said there was “no question about it: that girls had to be circumcised.”

When Minivan News spoke to Sheikh Rasheed today, he said he did not wish to comment on the matter as he had a meeting scheduled with the Health Ministry regarding the issue.

”If I say anything people might assume it was said on behalf of the Islamic Ministry, or that it was the ruling of the Ministry, so I will not say anything for the time being,” he said.

According to Aneesa, the concern was not whether female circumcision was indeed Islamic.
“I am not a scholar, I am not arguing whether it is right under Islam. If that is the case, we should not stop talking about it. We must undo conventions to which the Maldives is party.
“I don’t want girls to go through the negative complications such as infections and bleeding. I am not questioning whether it is Islamic, but if it is, then people need to be properly trained to do it. Some people are asking if boys are circumcised, why not girls? I am not questioning Islam, my concern is the negative [health] impact.”

According to information from the World Health Organisation (WHO), female genital mutilation is divided into four types: “clitoridectomy, the partial or total removal of the clitoris; excision, partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora; infibulation, the narrowing of the vaginal opening through the creation of a covering seal by cutting and repositioning the inner or outer labia, with or without removal of the clitoris; and all other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes.”

Dr Akjemal Magtymova of the WHO’s Maldives country office told Minivan News that from her limited research into the practice in the Maldives, “it looks like this is not a very intrusive form practiced here. It is more just a following of tradition, a show to a higher power that something has been done about it and the responsibility has been fulfilled.”

Unlike male circumcision there was, she said, “no health benefit to female circumcision.”

“There are risks including infection, infertility, and complications during pregnancy and birth when the wounds are not healed or where there is scar tissue,” she explained.

According to the WHO, girls undergoing the procedure also risk cysts and recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, as well as more immediate complications including severe pain, shock, haemorrhage, tetanus or sepsis, urine retention, open sores in the genital region and injury to nearby genital tissue.
It was, observed Dr Akjemal, an ethical dilemma around whether to train doctors to perform the operation safely.

“I am not sure about it – if you train doctors to perform the operation, you open it up to business and supply-induced demand. Rather than a practice isolated to traditional healers, it becomes a lucrative business,” she suggested.

Female genital mutilation is widely practiced in Africa with an estimated three million girls undergoing the proceedure each year, the WHO reports. Across Asia only Indonesia reports the practice although it is also believed to be performed in Malaysia.

In 1997, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a joint statement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) against the practice, and in February 2008 received wider UN support to increase advocacy against it.

“Female genital mutilation is recognised internationally as a violation of the human rights of girls and women,” the WHO advises. “It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women. It is nearly always carried out on minors and is a violation of the rights of children. The practice also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.”

Former State Islamic Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed, now the Dean of Villa College’s Faculty of Islamic Sharia, said he had studied the issue and determined that there was no valid hadith demanding females be circumcised.

”All scholars who say it is something that Muslim females should do are citing invalid hadiths,” Sheikh Shaheem said, calling for the practice to be stopped.

”Currently it is uncommon in the Maldives. When I was young I used to hear that it was something done, but now it is very uncommon and I think it was carried to this generation more as a cultural thing,” he said.


28 thoughts on “Reported increase in practice of female circumcision raises alarm”

  1. Its an extremist and fanatic version of Islam in Maldives now. It's been morphing into it for the past 10 years. It could all have been nipped in the bud..but these crazies has been left to live their extremist fantasies so what do you expect really??!!
    Crazy, insecure and cult mentality men preying on YOUNG and impressionable females!

  2. Well reading up on how they actually perform the female circumcision . Basically the removal of the clitoris would DEFINITELY compromise the pleasure the woman feels during sex(it seems like the religious fanatic men really does not want the women to know how good great sex feels like!) and the second part of the circumcision where they narrow the opening would DEFINITELY let the men who have the hhmm shall I say the challenged in size men to enjoy it!! Its a insecure tiny dick man's world!

  3. Great reporting, thanks.

    Better to call it Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), though.

    Calling it 'circumcision' gives it an air of legitimacy this brutality does not deserve.

  4. I've never heard of it being practiced in Addu and it could either be that it isn't actually being practiced or maybe it's way too taboo a subject to be discussed freely, but I've definitely seen an article on one very prominent Maldivian religious news website clearly advocating the practice.

    Terrible news either way as in the developed world, this is quite rightly seen as an extremely barbaric thing and practiced mostly in some of the worst parts of Africa and the Arabian peninsula. To head back in that direction is not great news and it's probably also an indication that giving crazy preachers the full freedom to preach whatever they want could become quite detrimental.

  5. A bit of back info on the topic, genital mutilation began in some tribes mostly in the north sub Saharan Africa with the spread of Christianity and Islam, highly probable it could even pre-date that. Its said that its due to the prevalence of Elongated Labia among female in Africa that this began.

    See also Steatopygia

    Interestingly enough there is the story of Hanukendu Hawwa from the historical pages of Addu, suggesting FGM was carried out even back then.

  6. I never seen or heard father and son (Dr.Waheed and Jefery waheed) so keen to blame a segment of Islamic thought so much while I heard Dr.Waheed himself is currently in Hajj!! I wonder what he is doing there? Dr Waheed and his son actively promotes Asia Foundation which is a watch dog of so called unfriendly islamic ideology to extreme western thinking which dominates the power circles.
    In the same respect, I have not seen nor heard girls under go circumsion for religious purpose. But I do hear some key politicians (both opposition and gov) have girls as slave girls for sex and they pay them for sex and its widely accepted in power circles in both!! What funny!!!

  7. What about the violation of the rights of boys? Male genital mutilation also violates a person’s rights to health, security and physical integrity, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Yet it is widely practiced in Maldives and all other Muslim countries as well as Israel and America. should not the male child also have a right to his physical integrity? I call the WHO to launch a campaign against ritual genital mutilation of boys too, just as they oppose it in girls.

  8. lots and lots of stuff goes on in this world that we have never heard or known about. in Male', or your island or Maldives too. doesnt mean it doesnt happen. anything and everything goes on here in the Maldives as well as the world.

  9. @ Steven Bradley on Mon, 31st Oct 2011 12:44 AM


    Maybe male circumcision has got some medical/health benefits. But NOT in the way that's done here in the MALDIVES.

    The boys are merely taken on to a table with some guys holding on the legs and another guy cuts off the foreskin. No pain killers - No modern surgical tools/procedures.

    Just imagine the psychological and physical 'torment' on the boy.

    Also, the boys get this after they're kids usually between 7 years to 12 years. Almost every boy is TERRIFIED when they're approached to be dragged to the TABLE with a knife. :O

    WHY CAN'T the AUTHORITIES get some decent rules/policies/procedures introduced and advocate this?

    Why won't NGOs advocate on getting the baby boys circumcised while they're mere babies? This will benefit the family of SAVING lots lots of money which otherwise they WASTE on the world's longest parties that we folks seems to enjoy. But not the boys on the bed!

    Also if we do get it done on baby boys then the babies won't feel ashamed or at least REMEMBER about the HORRIBLE day.

    Lots of boys do get nightmare throughout their younger days due to the 'torments' of that day which is engraved in their brains for a long time. Also their private parts are usually 'peeked at' by almost anyone who makes a visit with all the girls/women around. The girls/women/outsiders can see this again when the boys are lifted from their beds to be taken to the toilet or to get some dressing renewed. This is HUMILIATION just for the benefit of getting some 'good' time for some.

    How may of us do remember the day when out umbilical chords were cut?

  10. One more thing.

    The private practitioners are NOT doctors or with any medical or para-medical background.

    Sometimes they remove the foreskin way too much leaving the boy with irrecoverable damage such as bent-penis, less developed testes due to the pulling of the scrotal skin onto the penile-shaft which lacks adequate skin left for erection.

  11. Circumcision is NOT A MUST in ISLAM. And it's NOT A MUST to be a MUSLIM.

    We've got more important things in life as Muslims to LEARN and DO.

  12. Here are articles from prominent Maldivian islamic websites, advocating FGM, and giving instructions on how to do it. It includes an article by Seyku Shaheem as well. Notice how they say that FGM's negative effects is an 'evil western propaganda' to mislead the good ol maldivians from their path to rivers of wine and virgins.

  13. This news is offcourse good to be known and something which is opening our eyes. Sadly non one seems to know where exactly and who exactly are doing this terrible act. Neither Vice president, health minister, NGO nor JJ robisnson found it out. So I guess the news piece is missing indepth analysis. What a shame.

  14. Great chop off all genitalia.

    And then rule with a whip and terror.

    Thats islam for everyone. blind obedience.

  15. @Steven Bradley

    Many forms of FGM would be more akin to cutting off the entire outward part of the male genitalia so while there are similarities, it's not entirely the same thing.

    Unlike FGM, male circumcision also has medical and sanitary benefits and also helps in the prevention of AIDS. There's plenty of research which supports this and a lot of medical organisations involved in Africa (including the likes of Bill & Melinda Gates foundation I think) which actively promote it as a preventive measure.

    A valid counter point I guess would regarding consent. A child obviously does not have the conscience to make an informed decision.


    @Athif Ali:

    Circumcision is not really an Islamic thing. Jews and Christians as well as some animist Africans practice it. It's an ancient Egyptian thing which all these other religions have absorbed into them.

  16. All here say stories, not one single person to show out of 400,000 people.

    If JJ has run out of stories to tell, perhaps he can go for the big chop as well.

    As for Aneesa, her baskets her well enlarged by Anbaree Abdul Sattar.

  17. @ ko
    That's correct. Neither baby boys nor 7 year old boys can give consent. So ethically, it is wrong to chop off their foreskins for ritualistic reasons. Parents should leave their sons alone. Once the child grows up, let him make an informed decision by himself whether or not he wants to undergo the mutilation or keep himself intact.
    As far as pro-circumcision people's health benefit talks are concerned, with the exception of HIV infection rate reduction in the heavily HIV infected Sub-Saharan Africa, there are no other benefits that have any statistical significance. No professional medical association in the world, including WHO, advocates routine circumcision of male babies. On the contrary, with ever passing day, researchers are discovering more and more functions and importance of the foreskin, both in a physical, protective sense, and sexually as well. Circumcision rates in the advanced European nations is less than 10% and falling as more knowledge of the forskin becomes known. Even in America, where historically the rates were high, people are seeing sense. The 1990s and 2000s saw the sharpest decline in routine circumcision rates. Muslims should follow Europe and America's examples and ditch this barbaric, unethical, and physically as well as mentally traumatic and totally unnecessary procedure.

  18. Oh my, what a load of bullocks? Where? He said, she said is not good journalism. We need facts. Oh I heard it from somewhere? What the feck is that?
    JJ Jhona Jameson, shame shame!

  19. It was an ancient tradition orthodox culture in north Africa, but if it was claimed in Islamic tradition especially of Arab, really it was a set back of Islam in Maldives.

    What a poor woman of Muslim in Maldives!!
    Stop the genital woman mutilation now and forever. I am sure Allah knows much more human-beings know and think .

  20. I don't know why the people who have long beard claims that they are the only people who know the religion. If they want to cut off their's then do it. If they want to cut their children's then IT IS NOT ALLOWED. (i mean circumcise). In the case of marriage; it is not allowed unless otherwise the woman agrees.

    Why can they say according to his religion, they have to circumcise small girls. Do not say in Islam.

    For those who go against the Laws of Allah: this surah is revealed:

    Say, "O disbelievers,
    I do not worship what you worship.
    Nor are you worshippers of what I worship.
    Nor will I be a worshipper of what you worship.
    Nor will you be worshippers of what I worship.
    For you is your religion, and for me is my religion."

    They are worshiping what the commentators say, not Allah

  21. Anisa is just out there to get some publicity. If she is that much concerned about this issue, why cannot she remember the name of any scholar who said such and such in "atoll radio"? Just think about this. Is there anybody in Maldives who cannot know the speakers in these radio stations? Probably not. our country is v small and the scholarly are even tiny a group everyone knows. So if Aneesa cannot tell any names and just have hunches, then it shows how much she cares about this issue.
    Then about Minivan. Minivan cannot survive without an Islam bashing article on the front page. This is empirical truth! Minivan has got a devout bunch of kaafirs to the bashing, and an equally devout bunch of enranged muslims to counter that. So for Minivan, its a must to provide the entertainment.

  22. Genital cutting of anyone who does not give consent is just wrong. Never mind what old men with beards say, just ask yourself, would you want anyone to do that to you? Well then, do not do it to anyone else (male or female).

  23. The issue must be dealt with seriously..whichever side of the political spectrum you come from. Whichever party rules the government now and in the future, this should be a major issue of concern. I've grown up thinking this was a practice that was only carried out in Africa and Egypt...but it doesn't seem so now. I will not reduce this practice as merely cultural..because it has been practiced in Muslim countries even during the Prophet (S.A.W) time. But I seriously question the issue of this being a religious obligation, unlike in relation to boys. Medical research proves that circumcision for boys yield health benefits, but not for girls. Plus women have the additional burden of their monthly menstruation (processes that should not be interfered with) and the burden of carrying on a pregnancy for 9 months. There is no point in blaming the religious scholars entirely...because every sensible person with all the facts before them are able to make the right judgement. If we are going to give up all responsibility and hand it over to the religious scholars, I'd say we'd end up in a very bleak situation. Just like my mother denied permission for a midwife to even touch me with the thought of circumcision, other women should stand up for the rights of their children. And do not let your daughters suffer just because you have been through it! (unfortunately this was a belief that many of the African and Indo and Malay women had..just because they had been through it they wanted their daughters to suffer the same way...what a perverted thought - parents ought to be the protector of the child!)

  24. Cutting the genitals of any infant or child (male, female or intersex) is a violation of that person's most basic human right to bodily integrity.

    To argue the degrees of severity of the sexual mutilation is immaterial, the violation takes place when the blade breaks the skin and enters that person's person.

    To argue the terminology is also irrelevant, whether you call the forced genital cutting circumcision, or mutilation or "an important rite of passage" is missing the fact that every act of cutting an infant or child's genitals is a violation, a surgical rape.

    There are no health benefits to male circumcision, The touted "health benefits" have included a very long list of insane, ever-changing aliments that circumcision is supposed to prevent or cure. If adults wish to consider these "benefits" and choose cutting for their own body, hopefully they are fully informed of the risks. Children's healthy, still developing bodies need to be protected from such "health benefit" nonsense.

    This is an issue of human rights.

  25. pfuff......this is a bloody joke eh..

    The more educated they become, the more dumb they get..

    and to think that i advocated that this is not a must in islam...why do the scholars differ so much in knowledge?

    Things like these starts questioning the faith itself.


  26. i wonder whats wrong with these bunchs of Atheists, US report says, Islamic cirsm.. is safe and these uneducated empty talking guys are telling it is against humanity.. Know that, pharoic circm.. and islamic circms.. is very different..


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