PETALING JAYA: Malaysia has been criticised by representatives from Muslim countries for allowing female genital mutilation (FGM) and calling for the practice to be abolished.
Representatives questioned the practice of FGM by Malaysian Muslims at the Constructive Dialogue session at the 69th session of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) that was aired online on Tuesday (Feb 20).
Ismat Jahan from Bangladesh said that the practice of FGM is not Islamic, and called for its abolition.
"I come from Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country, and I find it very disturbing when I find reference that FGM is sanctioned under the religion of Islam," said Ismat.
"Whether we call it FGM, or cutting, or scratching. This needs to be stopped," she said.
Naéla Gabr from Egypt said that FGM is an African tradition and is not Islamic, and that the practice is no longer practised in many African countries and Muslim countries.
"FGM is not compatible with Islam. We are forbidding it and we are putting penalties on the person who is doing it, practising it - whether it is the doctor or the family," said Naéla.
"This needs to be revisited and studied in comparison to the best practices of the other Muslim countries," she said.
In response, a Malaysian delegate from the Attorney-General's Office said that FGM is part of Islamic teachings and should be observed by Muslims in a 2009 decision by the national fatwa committee.
However, he said it can be exempted if it brings harm to the girl.
A representative from Malaysia's Health Ministry also claimed that FGM is a "harmless" procedure that is done under the medical guidelines drawn up by the Health Ministry.
A coalition of 37 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Malaysia commented that there were six members from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) at the review and none of them attributed the practice of FGM to Islam.
"The Coalition is concerned that the principle behind the mandatory circumcision, being to 'control' women's sexual urges, was not disclosed by the government," said the coalition in a statement on Wednesday.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes FGM as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."
In Malaysia, the most prevalent form of FGM among Muslims is Type I, where the clitoral hood is removed.
Some practise Type IV, a ritual form which included pricking or nicking of the genitals.
In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution calling it a "human rights violation" and urged nations to ban the practice.
Malaysia ratified CEDAW in 1995 and is obligated to report the progress made every four years.
This is the second time Malaysia is undergoing a CEDAW review, after a 12 year delay.
The last time Malaysia submitted its report to CEDAW Committee was in 2006.