In Geneva, UN committee tells Malaysia to eliminate FGM

The UN European headquarters in Geneva, December 10, 2015. — Reuters pic
The UN European headquarters in Geneva, December 10, 2015. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — The United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) committee has urged Putrajaya to eliminate the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).

Representatives from Muslim-majority countries criticised Malaysia yesterday for allowing the practice of FGM, even when it is no longer considered to be in line with Islamic teachings.

Naéla Gabr from Egypt had told Putrajaya that FGM is an African tradition and is not Islamic, and even then it is no longer practised in many African countries and other Muslim-majority countries such as Saudi Arabia and Algeria.

The Malaysian delegate had pointed out Malaysia follows the Shafie school of Islamic jurisprudence, and that FGM is obligatory under a 2009 decision by the national fatwa committee unless it brings harm to the girl.

A representative from the Health Ministry had also claimed that FGM is safe and only medical professionals perform the procedure, while comparing it immunisation programmes for female babies.

“FGM is not compatible with islam. We both practice the Sunni denomination and Shafie school. Malaysia must revisit the fatwa and must look at examples from other Muslim majority countries,” Gabr had replied.

“There are six members on this committee from OIC countries — all our countries are not practising FGM and it is against the law in Egypt. So reconsider this practice in Malaysia as it has nothing to do with religion,” she added, referring to the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation.

Representative Ismat Jahan from Muslim-majority Bangladesh had similarly expressed concern over the practice of FGM in Malaysia which she said is not an Islamic tradition, and had called for its abolition.

Other representatives of OIC members in the committee were from Lebanon, Turkey, Algeria, and Mauritania.

The dialogue was broadcast live through internet streaming on UN’s website.

In Malaysia, the most prevalent form of FGM among Muslims is Type I, where midwives or doctors remove the clitoral hood of women, usually when they are still infants or children.

Some practise Type IV, a ritual form which included pricking or nicking of the genitals.

Countries party to Cedaw are obliged to send regular status reports on the implementation of the treaty, to be reviewed by a committee of experts which will engage in dialogue with government representatives.

Malaysia’s progress in women’s rights was reviewed only for the second time today, despite acceding to Cedaw in 1995. The last review was 12 years ago for its 2004 report.