KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 14 — The National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) today accused Putrajaya of misleading the United Nations Periodic Review about the practice of female circumcision in the country — considered female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide.
The commission said the representative Ministry of Women, Family and Community gave an “unconvincing and misleading” explanation when they defended the practice before the International Community in Geneva, Switzerland, five days ago.
Suhakam added that the move could potentially damage the country’s global standing on women’s rights issue.
“Suhakam was in particular disheartened with the unconvincing and misleading response poorly attempted by the representative,” its chief commissioner Tan Sri Razali Ismail said in a statement.
“The inaccuracy of the Ministry’s position in describing FGM as a Malaysian culture has the potential of damaging further Malaysia’s international standing on women’s rights,” he added.
Putrajaya denied the country practised FGM while defending infant female circumcision as “a cultural obligation” after delegation from other countries raised questions on the issue at the November 9 meeting.
The denial came even after Malaysia was heavily criticised in February by Muslim-majority committee members at the 69th session of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Cedaw) for allowing the harmful practice of FGM, Suhakam said.
The practice is now viewed as un-Islamic even by some Muslim countries, the commission pointed out.
Female circumcision is considered FGM by the UN World Health Organisation, but Muslim groups disagree with this.
In Malaysia, the most prevalent form of FGM among Muslims is Type I, where midwives or doctors remove the clitoral hood, usually when the girls are still infants or children. Some practise Type IV, a ritual form that includes pricking or nicking the genitals.
On the same note, Suhakam said it welcomed the Pakatan Harapan government’s announcement that it is looking into past UN recommendations, including acceding to all remaining international human rights treaties.
Razali said the move was important in this critical period of Malaysia’s human rights history, calling it an indication that the country is set to correct inaction by the previous Government.
“Suhakam is reassured of the Government’s promise of safeguarding democratic rights and interests of all Malaysians, emphasising the efforts of the new Government to ingrain practices of good governance, supported by accountability and transparency in all aspects of governance,” it said.