The BBC published a report on genital mutilation in Singapore and why it exists.
Upon reading the article, my Chinese friend immediately asked me, eh, are you a victim of this genital mutilation too?
I had to give a graphic explanation to her that Genital Mutilation is different from Female circumcision (Sunat Perempuan).
The Western world (and our non-muslim friends) are quick to assume that female circumcision is harmful to a woman without considering the different types of circumcision and also taking into account the surgery.
With Islamophobia growing in the Western world, people tend to change the message of Islam in order to make the religion more acceptable to western beliefs. While this may make sense, it also sadly confuses our Muslim community who may not understand the issue well.
I am setting these two apart here so that you can understand the differences too.
Take a chill pill my circumcised friends and stop freaking out.
Your clitoris was not abused!.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
There are many types of genital mutilation but the cases that BBC cited involves something like this:
“She grew up in Somalia, where 98% of women and girls between 15 and 49 have had their genitals forcibly mutilated. When she was six, all of her labia were cut off and she was then stitched together, leaving a tiny hole she compares to the size of a matchstick. Her clitoris was also removed….” (Source)
The Western world is quick to assume that female circumcision is harmful to a woman without considering the different types of circumcision and also taking into account that any surgery.
The example above is definitely harmful and fits perfectly into the human rights narrative that FGM caused physical, emotional, and psychological damage to the person
What Muslims in Singapore do however is called Sunat perempuan (female circumcision)
Circumcision (Sunat Prempuan)
Sunat Prempuan involves a small nip of the clitoris. In Singapore, girls undergo this procedure a few weeks after birth and it is being conducted by a medical doctor.
By human rights definition, it is an act of (FGM) but it does not have the negative connotation that it brings such as ‘Child abuse’ and that girls are forcibly harmed because of cultural beliefs.
If you really have to define it, then Sunat Perempuan is a Type 1 circumcision.
This is the removal of the clitoral prepuce, which is very similar to the prepuce of a penis, which is removed during male circumcision. This is the most basic procedure of female circumcision and the only procedure that would be allowed in Islam. The other procedures, types 2 and 3, where the labia minora, labia majora and clitoris may be extracted, are considered forbidden as they carry with them too many possibilities of bodily harm.
FGM vs Sunat Perempuan
There is slight confusion regarding what is female genital mutilation (FGM) and what is female circumcision.
In truth, the two terms have been used interchangeably but carry with them two very different connotations by the speaker. “Female genital mutilation” is often used when the speaker is condemning or speaking out against female circumcision whereas “female circumcision” is mostly used when discussing the practice as a medical procedure. (told ya your clitoris is safe!)
Additionally for your background knowledge, According to major islamic school of thought (Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam Shafi’i and Ahmad ibn Hanbal) circumcision is highly recommended or even mandatory. (source)
In Singapore, MUIS has always held the position that any form of procedure which has been medically proven to bring harm, including circumcision should be avoided. This is based on the Islamic legal maxim which states that ” all forms of harm must be removed’ or ‘Do not inflict injury nor requite one injury with another”. MUIS continues to advise Muslims that professional medical advice should be sought prior to ant medical procedure including circumcision to ensure that it would not harm the individual
So there it is my friends.
Female Circumcision VS Female Genital Mutilation.
Hope this helps.