The Problem of Sunat Perempuan

woman's hands gesturing

By Filzah Sumartono

So I was talking to my friend the other day and I brought up the issue of sunat perempuan or female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). And my friend seemed pretty nonchalant about it.

Yeah, well…it’s something that is done when the child is very young, all kids have to do it, right? – No, only Malay kids. – Yeah, okay, so what’s the problem? I think there are bigger problems out there.

Well, the problem to me is that sunat perempuan is something that does not need to be done. There’s no medical basis for it, it’s not something that is taught in medical school, there are no health benefits from it. By cutting the child, you’re taking away something from the child that is not yours to take in the first place. And all this because of some vague notion of “culture” or to “prevent promiscuity” or a misunderstanding of “religion” or a misunderstanding of how the female body works.

I recently found out that someone I know sent her infant daughter to be cut. My heart broke when I heard the news. It doesn’t matter if the procedure that is done in Singapore is “just a small cut” or “won’t hurt very much”. The very idea that something is wrong with female reproductive organs or that it is not good enough the way it is and that it has to be cut, reflects a deep-rooted idea that girls and women have to be controlled and subjected to many restrictions and etc.

Sunat perempuan is no different from other forms of violence against women. It is just one of the many ways society tries to control the female body, sexuality and being. In our Malay community, we begin the process at infancy. To not see it as a problem is to deny that this is part of a bigger picture of how society condones violence against women and removes women’s rights to live on their own terms.

Photo credit: Ruth Kolthof

Read the other posts here: Sunat Perempuan blog series



  1. Pingback: Blog Series #1
  2. Did you know that Islamic female circumcision is even more beneficial than male circumcision. This obligatory duty for Muslim women involves removing the skin (prepuce) covering the clitoris (hoodectomy) and is not genital mutilation as the Zionist media claims. It is good for genital hygiene of women and good for sex life. It prevents Urinary tract Infections, AIDS and transmission of cancer-causing HPV to our husbands through oral sex. Even modern American women are doing it under the name hoodectomy. So what’s wrong with Muslim ladies doing it?. See


    1. Hi and thank you for your comment. We have received a similar comment on our facebook page and the response by a member of public addresses your points. I copy it here for your convenience (

      By Diana Elska: Hello, I fail to see the relevance of of Zionism in the debate around female circumcision. The writer mentioned Jews (& their supposed control of the media), not Zionism, which signals to me that 1) you are conflating Jewishness with Zionism, which is wrong 2) there is the conviction that Jews are the main antagonists in this debate, which is also wrong.

      The studies/books he cited are outdated, especially the one that aimed to ‘cure’ frigidity in women published in 1962.

      The reasons female children are put through FGM/C are often not medical anyway but premised on misogynistic ideas such as the controlling of female sexuality. There is also the issue of consent — the female child is completely powerless to choose whether she wants this (unnecessary) procedure. Furthermore, female circumcision is often not a state-recognised medical procedure &/or it’s often done privately whether in private clinics or by individuals who may not have medical training. The tools used can be rudimentary, such as a needle, & often it can’t be determined how much of the prepuce is actually cut away. Women have also recounted trauma from the experience.


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