Figh Academy VP endorses female genital mutilation

Vice President of the Figh Academy Dr Mohamed Iyaz Abdul Latheef has endorsed female genital mutilation in response to a question posed by a reader on

Iyaz said several credible hadiths from the Prophet Mohamed demonstrated female circumcision is obligatory in Islam.

“The Prophet (PBUH) said: ‘Five things are part of the fitrah [nature] – circumcision, shaving the pubes, trimming the moustache, cutting the nails and plucking the armpit hairs.’ The circumcision in this hadith applies to both men and women,” Iyaz said.

Today is international day of zero tolerance to female genital mutilation. Executive Director of the UNFPA Dr Babatunde Osotimehin said female genital mutilation threatens the lives and futures of women and girls and is “an affront to their human dignity, an assault on their health and an impediment to the well-being of their families, communities and countries.”

“Human development cannot be fully achieved as long as women and girls continue to suffer from this human rights violation or live in fear of it,” he added.

In 2011, then Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan expressed concern over a reported increase in female circumcision in the Maldives.

“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,” he said at the time.

Obligatory or recommended

Islam calls for female circumcision, but there is dissent between scholars on whether circumcision is obligatory (farl) or highly recommended (mustahabb), Iyaz said.

“A hadith relayed by Aisha [Prophet Mohamed’s wife] says: ‘A bath becomes obligatory if one sleeps with your wife and the circumcised parts touch each other.’ The word circumcision has been applied to both men and women here.  The hadith demonstrates that women must be circumcised as well,” said Iyaz.

He also quoted Saudi Arabia’s Fatwa Comittee which expressed concern over the decline of female circumcision in Muslim countries.

“Circumcision of girls is a religious obligation that is slowly fading from many Muslim communities. It is an obligation or Sunnah that we must not let go of. It is the symbol that differentiates Muslims from non-Muslims.”

The fatwa said female circumcision must be carried out by specialised doctors, and added: “In a woman, the small sliver of muscle and the surrounding skin above the urinary tract is cut during circumcision.”

Iyaz said the Prophet Mohamed has ordered circumcision practitioners not to cut severely during circumcision.

Iyaz was elected as the VP of the Figh Academy in 2012. The organisation is a body established by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to advise the government on Islamic jurisprudence.

In early January, Iyaz condemned MPs for approving the sexual offenses bill which recognises marital rape, and advised MPs who voted for the bill to repent.

Zero tolerance

More than 125 million girls and women have been cut in the 29 countries in the Middle East and Africa where female genital mutilation is practiced, the UNFPA has said in a press release today.

The organisation is committed to work with partners to end harmful practices including violence against women and female genital mutilation, the UNFPA said.

“We strongly believe that when young people, especially young women claim their right to health, including sexual and reproductive health, education and decent work, they become powerful agents for social and economic development.”


Rising fundamentalism oppressing Maldivian women: Sydney Morning Herald

When the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, visited the Maldives late last year, she urged that the practice of flogging women for having sex outside marriage – while very rarely punishing men for the same – should be abolished, writes Ben Doherty for the Sydney Morning Herald.

”This practice constitutes one of the most inhumane and degrading forms of violence against women,” she told local reporters then.

The response was as fierce as it was unexpected. The next day protesters rallied outside the UN building, carrying placards that read ”Ban UN” and ”Islam is not a toy” and threatened to ”Flog Pillay”. A website later promised to ”slaughter anyone against Islam”.

Shadiya Ibrahim, member of the newly formed Gender Advocacy Working Group and a long-time campaigner for women’s rights, said Maldivian society was growing more oppressive towards women.

”Being a woman is harder now. The religious Wahhabist scholars preach more forcefully than anyone else can. They have this backing of religion as a tool.

”No one can make the argument to have a more liberal, a more positive attitude towards women. Day by day, it is becoming harder for women to live in this country,” she said.

Ms Ibrahim said women were excluded from positions of power, from taking jobs and even from education, particularly beyond primary level.

The practice of flogging women for extramarital sex was common across the Maldives, she said.

”It happens everywhere. Normally, this punishment is given when you give birth, which is why it is almost always women. If you have 140-odd women being flogged, you have only two or three men.” The flogging is public and done with a paddle or a cane, and is intended more to humiliate than to cause serious injury.

Ms Ibrahim said flogging was accepted by many Maldivians, and there were other, more serious issues emerging, including a growing number of instances of sexual violence.

”This week, there have been two cases of a gang rape of [a] minor, one 16-year-old, one 12-year-old and, very often, while there is an effort to catch the perpetrators, eventually, the media will turn it into ‘the girl was wearing this’, ‘the girl had gone there’,” she said.

Domestic violence is common. A nationwide survey done in 2007 found one in three Maldivian women had been abused, sexually or physically.

Aneesa Ahmed, president of advocacy organisation Hope for Women, said a domestic violence bill before the Maldivian parliament would raise awareness of an issue rarely discussed in the Maldives. But the legislation has been stuck in parliament more than 14 months. Only five of the Maldives’ 77 parliamentarians are women.

Ms Ahmed said Maldivian women’s control over their lives was being eroded. ”Men in the Maldives feel that the women’s role is reproductive and in the home. That’s what women should do and that’s all we should do.’

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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.


Female circumcision occurring in Addu atoll, reveals AG

Attorney General Husnu Suood has said the practice of female circumcision in the name of Islam has been revived in Addu atoll.

Speaking at a human rights function last night, Suood said although there have been significant successes in human rights in the past six years new problems and violations were emerging, “especially atrocities against women and children”.

Suood said “false scholars” were promoting anti-Islamic activities that also violated human rights principles.

“I will note one thing I learned in the past two weeks: 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.”

He added it had to be stopped and “cannot be tolerated.”

“This is not something we can just stand by and watch. In the recent past, I would say this had ceased almost completely. But today in Addu atoll, the circumcision of girls is going on at some speed. I call upon the relevant authorities to stop this.”

Suood said one of violation the authorities have been alerted to was violence against women in the name of Islam.

“Violence against women and children in the name of Islam, or in the name of promoting Islam, is something we should be concerned about,” he said.

Suood said Islam is a religion that protects the dignity of human beings, and referred to the efforts to put an end to the practice of female infanticide during the early days of Islam.

Attorney General Husnu Suood
Attorney General Husnu Suood

“Robbing people of their human rights or burying their rights in the name of religion is not acceptable,” he said. “I believe it is in defiance of our religion.”

He added there were cases of husbands forcing their wives to sleep on the floor “in the name of religion, saying, ‘this is how it is in Islam’.”

Further, some families were refusing to send girls to school or let them find employment across the country.

Another growing concern was the rise of human trafficking, he said, with a number of under-age girls recently brought to the country for sex trafficking.

“Human trafficking was certainly not something we have heard of in the Maldives in our recent history, especially the trafficking of women for sexual purposes,” Suood said, adding that the growth of the problem was something the government had to take immediate action against.

He further noted the rise of child abuse, referring to the recently passed law on special provisions for sex offenders as a step forward.

The attorney general also said that harassment and abuse of expatriate workers remained a serious problem.

A report by the Human Rights Commission revealed the dire situation of some expatriates in the country, who endure cramped and unsuitable living quarters and the non-payment of wages.

Opening his remarks, Suood said it was essential for Maldivians to change their mentality and ways of thinking to make progress on human rights issues.

The most important task at hand was to identify the areas where special measures were needed, he urged.

“Six years ago, our attention was mainly focused on political freedom and political rights, and how those rights could be won,” he said, adding there has been significant development in that area with the ratification of the new constitution.

But, he added, writing down rights on a piece of paper does not secure them. A bill of rights could not guarantee essential liberty unless Maldivians changed their “mentality and attitude”, he said, proposing human rights be taught as a school subject from pre-school to higher education.