Female Genital Mutilation

Posted On: July 28, 2019

Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an age-old practice in which the female genitals are injured, cut or changed deliberately without any medical reason. This process is known by different names like sunna, tahur, gudniin, and khitan. In Singapore, the practice is known as sunat perempuan. It is usually done on young girls between the age of infancy and fifteen before they reach puberty.

FGM is painful and may cause long-term effects on health. It is a traumatic experience. FGM can lead to problems in urinating and make sex painful. It can create complications in childbirth. Many women suffer from excessive bleeding that may cause death also.

There are some communities that practice FGM due to several socioeconomic reasons. However, FGM stands for discrimination against women and propagates inequality between the sexes.

There are four types of FGM.

  • Type 1 – It is called Clitoridectomy in which part or all of the clitoris is removed.
  • Type 2 – In this type, parts or whole of the clitoris is removed along with the inner labia. This may also involve the removal of the labia majora.
  • Type 3 – This is called Infibulation. It involves narrowing of the opening of the vagina by creating a seal. It is done by cutting and repositioning the labia.
  • Type 4 – This is not well defined and involves all processes of genital mutilation of women done by piercing, pricking, cutting or scraping the area.

FGM is prevalent in many countries. According to World Health Organization (WHO), FGM is practiced in 30 countries, mainly in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. According to one study, around 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone this practice.

There is a growing awareness against this cruel practice and it is believed that it is more rampant than believed. The activists report that it is widespread in Asia also.

Several cases of FGM have been reported from countries like Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Maldives of Asia.

In Malaysia, around 93% of females from the Muslim community have been mutilated with type 1 FGM. It is known as sunnah tradition. Previously it was performed by midwives but nowadays medical practitioners perform it. Religious beliefs, hygiene, and cultural obligation are the primary reasons for the community to follow this tradition.

Several clinics in Singapore are involved in FGM. Mostly the Malay Muslims follow this tradition. It is legal and performed in clinics.

We need to spread awareness against this practice and inspire more women to speak up so that the government can take necessary actions to ban female genital mutilation.

What AWARE in Singapore has said about FGM 

The ancient ritual – more commonly associated with rural communities in a swathe of African countries – is observed by most Muslim Malays in Singapore where it is legal but largely hidden, said Filzah Sumartono of women’s rights group AWARE.

Sumartono said it was too early to press for a ban in Singapore although many countries have outlawed FGM. She said they first needed to create more awareness and debate around the practice and galvanize public support for ending it.

“In my own circle of friends who are Malay and Muslim, 100 percent have been cut,” said Sumartono, who was cut herself at one month old.

“But it is very hidden. Whenever I bring up the subject with non-Malay they’re shocked and can’t believe it happens in Singapore.”

The health ministry did not comment despite several requests.

Sumartono said the practice – known locally as sunat perempuan – was usually done before the age of two and may involve cutting the tip of the clitoris or making a small nick.

For more information you can visit


Factbox: The hidden cut: female genital mutilation in Asia (2016, October 13). Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-singapore-fgm-asia-factbox/factbox-the-hidden-cut-female-genital-mutilation-in-asia-idUSKCN12D04E

Prevalence of female genital mutilation by country (2018, December 7). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prevalence_of_female_genital_mutilation_by_country#Singapore

Singapore comes under pressure over female genital cutting of babies.(2016, October 13) Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-singapore-fgm-babies-idUSKCN12D04C

About Dr. Martha Tara Lee

Surrounded by friends who were sexually inhibited and struck by dire lack of positive conversations around sex and sexuality in Singapore, Dr. Martha Tara Lee set out to make a positive difference in embarking on her doctorate in human sexuality before launching Eros Coaching in 2009. Today, she remains dedicated to working with individuals and couples who wish to lead self-actualised and pleasure-filled lives.

She also holds certificates in counselling, coaching and sex therapy, and her fourth degree – a Masters in Counselling in May 2018. In practice for more than 10 years, she is the only certified sexuality educator and certified sexuality educator supervisor by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT) in Singapore.

Often cited in the local media, Dr. Lee is the appointed sex expert for Men’s Health Singapore, and Men’s Health Malaysia. She was recognised as one of ‘Top 50 Inspiring Women Under 40′ by Her World in July 2010, and one of ‘Top 100 Inspiring Women’ by CozyCot in March 2011. She has published four books: Love, Sex and Everything In-BetweenOrgasmic YogaFrom Princess to Queen and {Un}Inhibited.

Martha works with individuals and couples in private coaching sessions, and conducts her own workshops. She takes prides in making sure all her workshops are also fun, educational, and sex-positive. This comes easily to her because even though she is extremely dedicated and serious about her work, she fundamentally believes that sex is meant to be fun, wonderful, amazing and sacred. As such, this serious light-heartedness has shone through again and again. For her full profile, click here. Email her here.

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