Female circumcision banned in Indonesia at physician level

Doctors and nurses in Indonesia have been barred from performing female genital cutting -- a practice sometimes referred to as female circumcision or female genital mutilation in which there is a partial or full removal of the labia, clitoris or both -- under a notice issued by the government, a Ministry of Health official announced on Wednesday, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune, 10/4).

According to Sri Hermiyanti, head of the health ministry's family health directorate, "[h]urting, damaging, incising" and "cutting" of the clitoris are not permitted under the ban because "[t]hese acts violate the reproductive rights of these girls and harm their organs."

She added that physicians are allowed to continue performing symbolic female circumcisions that do not involve physical harm.

There are no established punishments for those who violate the directive, and it likely will take time for traditional communities to completely give it up, Hermiyanti said (Sukarsono, Reuters, 10/4).

According to health ministry spokesperson Soemardi, who goes by one name, the government in April sent an informal notice to health providers informing them of the ban (AP/International Herald Tribune, 10/4).

Majelis Ulama Indonesia, an umbrella organization for Muslim religious leaders, has not endorsed the ban, but the organization does not support obligatory genital cutting, according to Reuters.

The World Health Organization estimates that two million girls worldwide are at risk of undergoing genital cutting annually (Reuters, 10/4).

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