Women in Indonesia (clitoridectomy) dialog
6 April 1998
A student of mine, working on the problematic of sexual agression, is interested to know whether womens in the island of Sumatra are submited to the cutting out of clitoris. Could some of you give me some kind of information.
Thank you in advance
In 1989, as an undergraduate intern at the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, I worked on the State Department Human Rights Report for Indonesia. There was a mandate to assess "female genital mutilation". I conducted interviews (with friends, mostly) and covered the literature on what is usually called "sunat perempuan". What I learned was this: it is either nonexistent, or symbolic (a reddish root placed over the infant's clitoris, and cut). Only in Aceh, in the far north, are there allegations of excision. These are unconfirmed, and the Acehnese are often demonized as "fanatic". I have since done research on ideas of home and family in the Minangkabau region of West Sumatra (1850s-1930s); the Minangkabau women certainly would have protested such practices, had they occurred. They did not.
For balance, your student might want to read the monograph, "The Penis Inserts of Southeast Asia" (the full cite is not at hand). Male genital modification was (and remains, in come places) quite prevalent in the Malay world.
Date: Wed, 8 Apr 1998 20:57:11 -0400
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu>
From: "Steven A. Leibo, The Sage Colleges" <email@example.com>
Subject: H-ASIA: Women in Indonesia
This is a reply to a request from Marana Caixeiro about clitorectomy on Sumatra
First of all, there are various ethnic gropus living on Sumatra, which all have their owen customs. I worked with the matrilinear Minangkabau of central Sumatra. To my knowledge there is no clitoridectomy there. The Acehnese are even stauncher Muslims but i don't know of any report there either.
Most of the Batak are Christians; they have never practised clitoridectomy.
On Java some instance of clitoridectomy have been reported, in its mildest form - ie only a slight incision on the clitoris, with no further damage done. This is usually performed not long after birth. Lampung has a large population of transmigrant Javanese. They may have taken this custom with them.
Literature will be difficult to find, but you should search under the names of all these groups.
Dr Saskia Wieringa