Sri Lanka

Population

21.3 million (2019)

2019 population growth rate

0.45%

 

 

Estimated prevalence among girls and women 

Unknown. There have been small-scale studies to show that female genital cutting (FGC) is practised among some Muslim communities in Sri Lanka, which make up about 8% of the population. Specifically, it is practised within the Moor, Malay and Dawoodi Bohra communities, and studies and anecdotes find that 90% of women and girls have been cut. 

Source: Stop FGM Middle East, Reuters, and Al Jazeera


Type practised

The most widely practised form is Type I of FGC – Clitoridectomy. It involved the removal of the clitoral hood or the clitoris. 

Source: Stop FGM Middle East


Age

In the Dawoodi Bohra community, girls undergo FGC at the age of 6 or 7. 

Among Moor and Malay communities, a child is cut on the 40th day after birth

Source: Reuters 


Agent

FGC within the Dawoodi Bohra community may be carried out by a medical practitioner or a traditional cutter. 

FGC within the Moor and Malay communities is carried out by an ‘Osthi maami’, a medically unqualified traditional cutter.

Source: Reuters


Legal status

There is no law against FGC specifically in Sri Lanka. However, FGC could be liable to punishment under some domestic laws such as Section-308(A)(1) of the Penal Code that explicitly refers to any “injury to limb or organ of the body or any mental derangement” of a person under the age of eighteen “commits the offence of cruelty to children”, and constitutes as child abuse. 

The health ministry denounced FGC and prohibited doctors from any involvement in the tradition. 

Source: Wickramage et. al (June 2018), Reuters (July 2018)


Progress to end FGC

  • The first report talking about FGC in Sri Lanka dates back to 1996, and was brought into the public eye through a Reuters report in November 2017. This Reuters report highlighted that 15 women have provided testimonials on FGC in Sri Lanka, which were submitted to the various Sri Lankan State authorities, including the National Child Protection Authority, Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Gender, and the Human Rights Commission. Some excerpts from the testimonies can be found here.  Marini De Livera, head of the National Child Protection Agency welcomed a meeting with lawyers and activists representing this group of women, urging for a ban on the ritual. Outcomes from this meeting are unknown. 
  • This UN ESCAP report (2012) also mentions that FGC or female circumcision is practised in Sri Lanka, thus highlighting that it is being recognised by some international agencies, albeit not all. 
  • In 2017, Activist Shreen Saroor asked the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to recommend that the state should criminalise FGC, and send a strong message that the practice is illegal, harmful, considered child abuse, and violates bodily integrity of girls and women.
  • The Parliamentary Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Gender was deliberating law reform. A proposal to ban this practice through law was submitted to the Minister of Justice Thalatha Atukorala in December 2017. 
  • In May 2018, Dr Anil Jaisinghe, Director General of Health Services issued a circular prohibiting medical practitioners from carrying out female circumcision.

Challenges to progress

  • In 2008, the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama (ACJU) regarded as the Supreme Council of Muslims in Sri Lanka has issued a fatwa (an Islamic ruling) making female circumcision compulsory. Religious leaders of the Shafee school of thought have supported the continuation of FGC
  • The government’s ban on FGC  is condemned by members of Sri Lanka’s Muslim communities. The Centre for Islamic Studies in Sri Lanka claims that the decision to ban female circumcision is an affront that violates their religious rights. They argue that female circumcision is just a nick, a hoodectomy, not mutilation and should not be classified as per the WHO definitions of FGM. They claim It is a religious obligation and not a dangerous practice. 
  • Members of the All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama, All Ceylon YMMA Conference, Centre for Islamic Studies and United Religions Initiative urged the Health Ministry to withdraw the circular prohibiting medical professionals from carrying out female circumcision. 
  • Medicalisation of FGC is an issue. Proponents of the practice argue that medicalisation of the procedure will ensure female circumcision is carried out in hygienic conditions. If doctors refuse to perform the procedure, the practice will be driven further underground. People will go to traditional female circumcisers (Osthi Maamis) which could lead to serious medical complications. 

History

FGC is practised within the Dawoodi Bohra community in Sri Lanka, which is originally from India and Pakistan. The Bohras are mostly based in Colombo. Here, daughters are cut at the age of 7, and the practice is known as khatna. 

The Moor and Malay communities (ethnic Muslim communities in Sri Lanka) are of the Shafi school of Islam, where female circumcision is mandatory. They make up about 98 percent of the local Muslim population. These communities have their daughters cut on the 40th day after birth, often by traditional practitioners known as Osthi Maamis. 

Source: Sri Lanka Brief, Sunday Observer, Lanka web


Human Development Index ranking

Rank 76 in 2019 index (2018)


Infant mortality rate

8 deaths per 1,000 live births (2018)


Maternal mortality rate

30 deaths per 100,000 live births (2018).

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