The conference “FGM/C is our issue too: Voices from Asia”, organized by the Asian Network to End FGM/C, which was founded by ARROW and The Orchid Project, highlighted the reality of FGM in Asian communities.
For a long time, it was thought that FGM was an “African practice”. However, as data has become more available, the understanding of the practice as a global concern has increased.
Currently only two countries in Asia have representative survey data on FGM: Indonesia and Maldives. However, additional evidence suggests that FGM is present in local communities of 8 countries: Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka. This data shows great variations in terms of the size of affected populations and the forms of FGM that are being practiced. The conference enabled us to gain better understanding of the practice of FGM in some of these communities.
Key findings from a study done in the Bangsamoro region of the Philippines showed that many people think that FGM is an Islamic practice and that they do not consider certain types of female genital cutting to be FGM but instead “female circumcision”. “Thanks to a new programme in the region FGM is increasingly being recognized as a harmful practice and is now being replaced in communities by alternative practices without any genital mutilation.
In Malaysia, the type of FGM most commonly practiced is Type IV. As in the Philippines, many people still believe it to be a religious practice. With time the practice has shifted from being practiced by midwives to being practiced by medical doctors.
In Indonesia, midviwes practice FGM on new born girls as a part of a “package” where the babies get their ears pierced and are cut at the same time. Contrarily to certain other communities, FGM is more common in urban areas than in rural areas in Indonesia.
In the conclusion, speakers stressed the need for data collection, especially at local and regional levels, in order to implement successful anti-FGM programmmes in the Asian region. Working with local organizations is key to create a space for debates and awareness-raising in communities.