FGM Prevalence in Indonesia – 22% clitoridectomy in some areas

How many countries does FGM occur in?

Whilst in Davos, I was able to meet a number of people from outside of Africa. It reinforced my thinking that this issue is so much wider than just the 28 African countries (out of 54!) that practice it.  The countries where it occurs include Indonesia, Yemen, Kurdistan, Malaysia, pockets of India.


Partly because I’ve just decided that I have to go and spend my birthday with my best friend in Indonesia (she lives in NZ so it’s halfway between there and London) and partly because I met a few Indonesians recently, I did some research. Here are some links to more information:

1) A news story from “Indonesia Matters” on 3 March 2008 outlining some of the issues of FGM in Indonesia (and 458 comments following the article from various people)

2) A report from USAID in 2001 which states that: FGM practices can be divided into two main groups: “symbolic only” types where there is no incision or excision, accounting for about 28% of all the cases of FGM in the study for which an eye-witness account was available, and “harmful” forms, involving incision (49%) and excision (22%).

3) A study from UNHCR that shows that: “According to the study, of 100 mothers in the Kemayoran community in Jakarta, 97 percent of their female children had been circumcised.”

It does appear that the type of FGM is different, yet it still falls under the UN definition of type 4 – either a pricking, cauterising or incision of the clitoris. It also seems to be much more strongly linked again with Islam in some of these areas.

My thoughts here are that we severely underestimate the scale and extent of ANY form of FGM. We all quote the figure of 3 million girls a year, yet this figure only is from the African countries that practice it.  Because Indonesia tends to practice type 4 or type 1 (clitoridectomy) does that make it any lesser? Do child rights have geographical boundaries?  If we ritually pricked a part of a child’s body in the West, what would happen?