Change in Indonesia?

Thursday 05 June 2014

Indonesian Government condones FGC

In the past we have blogged about the Indonesian Government condoning the medicalisation of female genital cutting, and hence the promotion of the practice. In 2011 we submitted information on the situation of FGC in Indonesia for consideration in the context of the Universal Periodic Review of Indonesia, an instrument of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council set up to review the human rights records of every member state. It is well documented that FGC takes place in Indonesia, although there is no clear data on the true scale.

In this we highlighted the implications of the Government regulations which essentially medicalise the practice, by seeking to mitigate harm, asking that the regulations be repealed. We also reminded Indonesia of the World Health Organization guidelines, which state health practitioners must not perform FGC. The medicalisation of FGC is on the rise globally, with over 70% of all FGC in Egypt now estimated to be performed by medical staff.

In 2010, the Indonesian Health Ministry issued regulation No. 1636/MENKES/PER/XI/2010, which outlined how medical staff should perform FGC. Amnesty International has continued to call for this regulation to be revoked, with finding showing that the procedures taking place often failed to correspond with Government descriptions of FGC (or sunnat) as, ‘the act of scratching the skin covering the front of the clitoris, without hurting the clitoris.’ In many cases, the FGC was of greater physical severity, and after all, FGC is a human rights issue regardless of the ‘type’ performed.

In early 2014, the Health Ministry released Regulation Number 6 Year 2014. This new regulation at first glance seems to signify a positive change in attitudes to FGC and to herald a new approach, but it is important to delve a little deeper.

Does this new regulation signify a change in policy?

Article 1 in the regulation states, Health Ministry Regulation Number 1636/ Health Ministry/PER/ XII/ 2010 about Female Circumcision has been revoked and declared as not valid anymore.’ Clearly this should be positive news, yet taken in the wider context of the regulations, maybe not so. The considerations taken into account for the report include:

1. That every measure/action in the medical field must be based on medical indication and scientifically has been beneficially proven;

2. That woman circumcision until today is not part of medical action/ measures because its implementation is not based on medical indication and has not been proven to be healthily benefitted;

3. That based on cultural aspects and Indonesia Community believes, there are still demand for female circumcision to be conducted and its implementation should pay attention toward  the safety and health of the circumcised woman, and not conducting Female Genital mutilation;

4. That the Ministry of Health regulation Number 1636/ Health Ministry/ PER/ XII/ 2010 about Female Circumcision is perceived as not fit anymore with the Dynamic of Global Policy Development;

5. Based on consideration on above points a, b, c, d need to settle Ministry of Health Regulation on Revocation of Health Ministry Regulation Number 1636/ Health Ministry/ PER/ XII/ 2010 about Female Circumcision.


Following on from this, Article 2 then says, ‘To give a mandate to Health Advisory Council and Ministry of Health Syara’k to Publish a Guidance on the Implementation of Woman Circumcision That Guarantee the Safety and Health of the Circumcised Woman and not to conduct a Female Genital Mutilation.’

What the government does and does not believe with regards to FGC as required by religion is a point of contention. There is certainly a sticking point in Indonesia regarding the believed difference between ‘circumcision’ and ‘female genital mutilation’, which this final paragraph alludes to.

Point also d) seems to acknowledge that there has been global outcry about Indonesia’s policy on cutting, as it does not fit with global policy (specifically human rights declarations, the UNGA resolution from December 2012 and the WHO policy regarding medical practitioners and FGC).

It is also noticeable that these regulations have not been widely discussed and it may be that they end up being little more than a nod to actual change. This means the regulation is markedly less encouraging than they might at first seem.

From our point of view, our stance will remain the same: FGC is a human rights violation and every girl has the right to remain free from cutting in any form. We will continue to campaign for this to be the position of every government, and remain concerned by the stance of the Indonesian Government in particular.