KUALA LUMPUR: Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has reiterated the government's stand on female circumcision, calling it a part of Malaysian culture.
The Women, Family and Community Development minister also said her ministry is holding discussions with the Health Ministry to look at the benefits and downsides of the practice.
She was commenting on a statement by Malaysian delegates during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights in Geneva, Switzerland last week, in which they defended the practice of infant female circumcision as a "cultural obligation" in Malaysia.
“We are in discussions with the Health Ministry because so far, it is actually something that is cultural which we had since before, and this is one of the things they (the delegates) actually said.
“But we are not the same as Africa, all the mutilation (there). If it doesn’t give any benefits, then we should do something,” she told reporters at the Parliament lobby today (Thursday).
Yesterday, the National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) accused the government of misleading the UPR about the practice of female circumcision in the country — considered female genital mutilation (FGM) worldwide.
Suhakam chairman Tan Sri Razali Ismail had said the inaccuracy in describing FGM as a Malaysian culture could further damage Malaysia’s international standing on human rights.
He had also said Suhakam was disheartened with the “unconvincing and misleading” response poorly attempted by the representative of the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development in Geneva that FGM was not practised in Malaysia.
Female circumcision is considered FGM by the UN World Health Organisation.
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.
On a separate matter, Dr Wan Azizah said the welfare of teachers and that of their family members must be taken care of.
“If the children need protection, then the (Welfare Department) can take over.”
“Teachers are important and we must take care of their welfare. There must be an outreach to look into the environment the teachers are in,” she said in reference to the plight of a teacher who was reportedly forced to give away her six children.
It was reported that the woman was forced to do so after her transfer request was not approved.
Education Minister Dr Maszlee Malik was quoted as saying that he would immediately look into the teacher’s plight.