Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female circumcision, is a harmful practice involving partial or total removal of external female genitalia. This practice is often performed on girls between infancy and age 15. It is recognized as a violation of human rights by international organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN).
In Indonesia, FGM is prevalent in many regions, with an estimated 49% of girls and women aged 11-49 years having undergone the practice. The practice is deeply rooted in cultural and religious traditions. It is often seen as a rite of passage into womanhood or a way to ensure a girl’s purity and readiness for marriage. Poverty, lack of education, and social pressures also contribute to the continuation of FGM in Indonesia.
Efforts to address FGM in Indonesia need to consider the cultural and social contexts in which the practice persists. Strategies to end FGM should involve raising awareness about the harmful effects of the practice, engaging communities and religious leaders, and providing education and economic opportunities to girls and women. It is also important to involve men and boys in efforts to end FGM, as they often play a significant role in decisions related to marriage and family matters.
One of the most essential strategies to end FGM in Indonesia is to raise awareness about the harmful effects of the practice. Many communities that practice FGM may not be aware of the potential risks and consequences associated with the procedure. Therefore, education campaigns should be developed to help communities understand the dangers of FGM.
Such campaigns should be community-based and culturally sensitive. They should involve the participation of religious leaders, health workers, and community members to help spread the message about the harmful effects of FGM. These campaigns should be conducted in local languages and use culturally appropriate materials to engage with people.
In many communities in Indonesia, religious leaders have significant influence and play a key role in decisions related to marriage and family matters. Therefore, engaging with religious leaders can be an effective way to promote the abandonment of FGM.
Religious leaders can play a crucial role in raising awareness about FGM’s harmful effects and promoting alternative rites of passage that do not involve cutting. For example, they can encourage ceremonies that celebrate the transition from childhood to adulthood without involving cutting. Engaging with religious leaders requires sensitivity to the cultural and religious context. It should be done with respect for religious beliefs and practices.
In 2016, Indonesia passed a law criminalizing FGM. The law stipulates that anyone who performs FGM on a girl or woman will face up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to 1 billion rupiahs (approximately $70,000). However, the implementation and enforcement of the law remain weak, and the penalties for those who perform FGM are relatively lenient.
Therefore, it is vital to strengthen the implementation and enforcement of the law. This can be done by collaborating with government agencies, civil society organizations, and religious leaders. Government agencies should work together to ensure that the law is implemented effectively and perpetrators of FGM are held accountable.
One effective strategy for reducing the prevalence of FGM in Indonesia is providing alternative rites of passage that celebrate the transition from childhood to adulthood without cutting. These alternative rites of passage can be culturally sensitive and involve traditional rituals and ceremonies that do not harm girls.
For example, in some communities, girls are celebrated with a special ceremony when they reach puberty. These ceremonies can involve blessings, songs, dances, and gifts celebrating the girls’ transition into womanhood. Such rituals can provide an alternative to FGM and help reduce the social pressure on families to have their daughters undergo the harmful practice.
It is important to note that these alternative rites of passage should not be imposed from outside but rather developed in collaboration with communities and with respect for their cultural and religious traditions. Involving community members and religious leaders in designing and implementing these ceremonies can ensure they are culturally appropriate and meaningful.
Empowering women and girls through education, health services, and economic opportunities can reduce their vulnerability to FGM. When women and girls have access to education and economic opportunities, they are more likely to make decisions about their bodies and resist pressure to undergo FGM.
In many communities, girls who undergo FGM are seen as more desirable for marriage, and families may see the practice as a way to secure their daughters’ futures. Therefore, providing economic opportunities for girls and women can help reduce the social pressure on families to have their daughters undergo the practice.
Providing access to health services, including sexual and reproductive health services, can also help reduce the prevalence of FGM. When girls and women have access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, they are more likely to understand the risks and consequences of FGM and make informed decisions about their bodies.
Men and boys play a significant role in decisions related to marriage and family matters in many communities in Indonesia. Therefore, involving men and boys in efforts to end FGM is necessary. Men and boys can be allies in efforts to end FGM by promoting alternative rites of passage, supporting education campaigns, and advocating for the abandonment of the practice.
Involving men and boys requires a shift in cultural norms that perpetuate the practice of FGM. Men and boys need to be educated about the harmful effects of FGM and the importance of promoting gender equality and women’s rights. Engaging men and boys in efforts to end FGM can help promote a culture of respect for women and girls and reduce the social pressure on families to have their daughters undergo the practice.
Female genital mutilation is a harmful practice with no medical benefits and violates the human rights of girls and women. In Indonesia, FGM is prevalent in many regions, and efforts to address the issue need to consider the cultural and social contexts in which the practice persists.
Efforts to end FGM in Indonesia should involve a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach that involves various stakeholders, including government, civil society, religious leaders, and affected communities. Strategies to end FGM should include raising awareness about the harmful effects of the practice, engaging communities and religious leaders, and providing education and economic opportunities to girls and women. It is also important to involve men and boys in efforts to end FGM, as they often play a significant role in decisions related to marriage and family matters.
Ending FGM requires a sustained effort from different stakeholders and a multi-faceted approach that addresses the underlying causes of the practice. The most effective interventions will be those that are culturally sensitive, community-driven, and grounded in the principles of human rights and gender equality. By working together, we can end the harmful practice of FGM in Indonesia and promote the health and well-being of girls and women.
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