Concern Regarding Health Ministry Circular Against Islamic Religious Practice

Health Ministry Circular Against Female Circumcision Condemned

We are deeply concerned with a recent Health Ministry circular prohibiting medical practitioners from carrying out female circumcision. The circular issued by Dr.Anil Jasinghe, Director General of Health Services states that any involvement in the procedure, be it conducting the procedure or encouraging it, is considered highly unethical and that all medical professionals are instructed to refrain from any involvement in it, adding that disciplinary action shall be taken against any medical professional practicing or promoting it, and not adhering to the stipulated instructions.

This is an affront to Muslims who regarded it as an obligatory religious duty and threatens to undermine the free practice of religion guaranteed by the law and constitution of Sri Lanka. The All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama issued a fatwa in 2007 stating that circumcision is obligatory for both males and females. The Islamic procedure of circumcising females is similar to male circumcision and involves the removal of only the clitoral hood (prepuce) which facilitates genital hygiene and improves sex life. In fact even Western women choose to undergo this procedure under the name of hoodectomy to improve sexual satisfaction, a fact which has been proven by numerous studies.

Certain activists have in their campaign against the practice resorted to the devious tactic of associating it with Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) of the kind that takes place in certain African countries. In contrast what takes place here in Sri Lanka is either a nick on the prepuce of the clitoris (in the case of the majority) which is harmless or the Islamically prescribed procedure of removing the hood or prepuce of the clitoris (in the case of religious Sunni families well versed in Islam and among the Bohras) which has been proven to confer numerous benefits to women.

There is an urgent need to medicalise the procedure to ensure that female circumcision is carried out in hygienic clinical settings and to define what needs to be done as done by health authorities in Malaysia and Indonesia. The move to prohibit its practice by medical professionals and in hospitals not only infringes on our religious rights, but also threatens to drive the procedure underground, leading to the possibility of dangerous forms of FGM arising within the community. We call on the health authorities to rescind the circular or issue a fresh circular excluding the Islamically defined procedure and female genital cosmetic surgeries from the definition of FGM and so respect our religious rights.

Asiff Hussein
Vice President- Outreach
Centre for Islamic Studies

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