JAKARTA - Indonesia's highest council of Muslim scholars has stirred up a new controversy after urging the government to continue allowing female circumcision, objecting to a United Nations' plan to ban the procedure.
What we reject is the ban, Ma'ruf Amin, the chairman of the country's highest Islamic authority, the Indonesian Ulema Council (IUC), was quoted as saying by ABC News on Thursday, January 24.
Amin has been reported as calling on hospital and health centers in the country to provide the service to people who would want their daughters circumcised.
If there is a request ... don't turn [the parents] away, he added.
The comments came as a response to the UN approval last month of a non-binding resolution urging its 193 member states to enforce legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation.
The council made the stand during a press conference here Monday, amid a United Nations (UN) campaign to ban female circumcision.
The MUI and Islamic organizations in the country firmly stand against efforts to ban female circumcision, MUI deputy secretary-general Amrisyah, as quoted by Antara news agency.
FGM includes procedures that intentionally alter or injure female genital organs for traditional socio-religious and other non-medical reasons.
The practice involves using blades -- often unsterilized and without anaesthesia -- to slice off the clitoris and sometimes other parts of the external genitalia.
The procedure has no health benefits for girls and women, but instead causes severe bleeding, urinating problems, and later, childbirth complications and newborn deaths.
The practice is mostly carried out by traditional circumcisers, who often play other central roles in communities, such as attending child births.
FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the basic human rights of girls and women and is mainly carried out on young girls sometime between infancy and the age of 15.
Many countries have put in place policies and legislations to ban the practice.
Local activists supported the UN resolution, praising it as an acknowledgement that the earlier ban on female circumcision was failing.
When the hospital or the health services in that area refused to the circumcision, the mother will take the female baby to the midwife, or just to a traditional healer, or birth attendant - it's even more dangerous, Justina Rostiawati, from the National Commission on Violence Against Women, said.
The practice of female circumcision was officially banned by the Indonesian Ministry of Health in 2006 on the grounds that it was potentially harmful.
But in 2010, the Government created confusion when it issued a ministerial regulation outlining how the practice should be carried out by medical doctors.
Not only in Indonesia.
Though illegal, FGM is still practiced throughout the world.
In Africa, it is common in a geographical area that stretches from Senegal in West Africa to Ethiopia on the East Coast, as well as from Egypt in the North to Tanzania in the south.
It is also practiced by some groups on the Arabian Peninsula.
The country where FGM is most prevalent is Egypt, followed by Sudan, Ethiopia and Mali.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 100 to 140 million girls and women worldwide are currently living with the consequences of FGM.
In Africa, the WHO estimates that three million girls are at risk for the practice annually.