PETALING JAYA: The US government's reluctance to defend the ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) is a "slippery slope" that Malaysia should avoid, say two women non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Recently, US media reported that the Trump administration had decided not to defend a ban on FGM that was passed more than 20 years ago.
Business Insider said the ongoing case against doctor Jumana Nagarwala who allegedly cut the clitoral hoods of two seven-year-old-girls at the request of their mothers was the first test of the US law that bans FGM for non-medical reasons.
However, Michigan federal Judge Bernard Friedman ruled the anti-FGM law unconstitutional in November 2018 and dismissed the charges against Nagarwala.
The Justice Department had an opportunity to appeal the court decision, but Business Insider said they may not pursue it.
According to the Trump administration, there aren't adequate grounds to defend the law.
"The US’ reluctance to have a strong stance against FGM demonstrates an irresponsible lack of political will where sexual and reproductive health rights are concerned," Sisters In Islam communications manager Majidah Hashim said.
"This disappointing move, coupled with the fact that the US still has not ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) and Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), reflects a misogynistic disregard for the well-being of girls and women under the Trump administration," she added.
Majidah said minorities are the most vulnerable to FGM in the United States, as it is most common among its diverse immigrant communities.
"Malaysia needs to learn from the slippery slope that the United States has cornered itself into where the health and well-being of its citizens are concerned," she said.
"Many Muslim-majority countries have completely banned all forms of the practice, and we encourage Malaysia to urgently follow suit," Majidah said, adding that FGM is a harmful practice with no Islamic basis or any medical benefits.
Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (Arrow) said it was unfortunate that even the legal framework of developed countries such as the United States were inadequate in affirming and protecting basic sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls.
"It is regrettable that the US government does not have a comprehensive framework for gender equality in place in order to ensure progress towards recognising women's equal rights in society, which includes their sexual and reproductive rights," its executive director Sivananthi Thanenthiran said.
In Malaysia, the government had previously reaffirmed its stand that female circumcision was part of Malaysian culture.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail reportedly said that female circumcision in Malaysia was unlike the extreme FGM practised in some African countries, but would look into the issue.
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