Female genital mutilation (FGM) is internationally recognized as a gross violation of human rights, a form of violence against women and girls, and a manifestation of gender inequality. The majority of the international efforts focused on ending the practice are focused in Africa, despite evidence of FGM occurring across the region.
Though Indonesia and Maldives have national-level prevalence data, small scale studies and media reports provide evidence of the practice in at least 12 countries across South and South East Asia, including for example:
- In India, FGM is known to be practiced by the Bohra community as well as a Sunni Muslim sect in Kerala. The Bohra population in India is estimated to be around 1 million. A 2018 study estimated prevalence of FGM within the Bohra community to be 75% of daughters of all respondents in the sample.
- The Malaysian government estimates that “83-85% of the Muslim baby girls have been circumcised by medical professionals in private clinics”. Research studies similarly estimate high prevalence of FGM. In Indonesia, national data shows FGM prevalence of 49.2% among girls aged 0-11 across the country.
- In the Maldives, national prevalence data shows FGM/C prevalence of 13% among women and girls aged 15-49, but a prevalence of only 1% among girls aged 0-14; though anecdotal evidence from activists shows increased support for FGM/C within the country, particularly from religious leaders.
“There are big and small pockets of FGM happening across Asia…If you are talking about the complete elimination of FGM, every woman and girl counts.”– Masooma Ranalvi (India)
Activists and groups working to end the practice across the region face monumental challenges in their work, compounded in many cases by the lack of reliable data, insufficient support and funding from the international community, and reluctance of national governments to take action on the issue, and in some cases a refusal by the national governments to recognize the existence of the practice at all.
Explore our global report, Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Call For A Global Response.
What do the laws in South and South East Asia say about FGM?
Despite evidence of FGM occurring in countries across South and South East Asia, not a single country has enacted a specific legal prohibition against female genital mutilation.
What is Equality Now doing to address female genital mutilation in South and South East Asia?
In March 2020, in partnership with the End FGM European Network and the US End FGM/C Network, Equality Now released Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Call For A Global Response consolidating data on the prevalence of FGM across the globe, including in South and South East Asia.
Equality Now is working with partners in the region, including in India, to advocate for laws against FGM, amplify voices of survivors and intervene with international human rights bodies to put pressure on Asian governments to take action to end FGM.
We are a proud member of the Asia Network to End FGM/C.