Opening Remarks of UNFPA Representative Dr Annette Robertson at the Seminar on FGM Morrisey Hotel, 13 December 2016

14 December 2016

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning; selamat pagi.

On behalf of UNFPA it is my great pleasure to be with you all here today to the 2016 Seminar on FGM/C. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank MOWECP for conducting this seminar on FGM/C in 2016.  This is a followup to a series of meetings and to the international seminar held in September last year.  This forum is a follow-up to government’s commitment to eliminating FGM/C, which was voiced by Minister Yohana Yembise at the International Day of Zero Tolerance on FGM/C in New York early 2016. She said that elimination of FGM/C is one of the government’s focus to protect the rights of women and girls in Indonesia.

I am glad to see many committed advocates have continued to work on this issue, even though it is so sensitive in this socio-cultural context.

The UN has declared FGM/C as violence against women and girls thus and a violation of basic human rights. It requires strong involvement of all sectors: health, education, law enforcement, women’s empowerment to end it. It is vital to ensure efforts are directed towards prevention of this practice among our girls and young female adolescents and that there is a better understanding of how this can occur, with the full endorsement of all sectors of society.

FGM/C is a practice that is reported to be quite common in several communities across Indonesia. According to 2015 Basic Health Research, 51% of women experienced FGM/C. The most common types reported are Type I (partial cutting, pricking, scraping) and Type 4 (various other harmful proceedures, including symbolic ones). 

Globally between 100 and 140 million girls and women in the world are estimated to have undergone FGM procedures, and 3 million girls are estimated to be at risk of undergoing the procedures every year.

One of the targets under Goal 5 of the recently agreed Sustainable Development Goals is Global elimination of FGM. Goal 5 seeks to achieve gender quality and empowerment for all Women and Girls.  As World leaders from more than 193 UN Member States have expressed commitment to eliminate this harmful practice through their endorsement of the SDGs, we stand committed to assist Governments, including the Government of Indonesia, to achieving their SDG commitments including on FGM/C elimination.

UNFPA recognizes that the traditions referred to as ‘female circumcision’ often have a strong basis in social, cultural and religious beliefs. However, at the same time, any procedure that involves genital cutting is risky and potentially life-threatening for girls, both during the procedure and throughout the course of their lives. Chronic pain, infections, increased risk of HIV transmission, anxiety and depression, birth complications and infertility are just a few of the health risks associated with the practice.  However, from UNFPA perspective the FGM/C is much more than just a health issue. It is a women’s empowerment issue that goes to the heart of her basic human rights. FGM/C is a complete violation of a women’s rights.

Research shows that there are 44% hospital and health clinics in Indonesia provide FGM/C Type 1, while 56% provide Type 4 FGM/C service. Around 51% of the services are provided by midwives and 40% are by traditional birth attendants, under the supervision of a midwife. Thus working with our midwives to eliminate this practice is crucial.

As a procedure that has no medical benefits for the patient, FGM is internationally considered to be a harmful practice and a form of violence against women, whether it is performed by a trained doctor in a hospital or by a traditional healer at home. In 2010, the World Health Organization in collaboration with a number of medical professional associations and UN agencies, including UNFPA, issued a global strategy to stop health-care providers from performing  female genital mutilation. Subsequent announcements and declarations have also been made recently in the call for Zero Tolerance for FGM.

UNFPA is working with NCVAW, MOWECP and MOH, through funding from Australia’s DFAT, to conduct an FGM study on medicalization of FGM/C. The study aims to explore the current medical practices surrounding FGM/C, understand the reasons and the motivation of the providers, document the renumeration involved, validate the types of procedures and places in which they are conducted. We hope that this will inform Government around the need for revision and strengthening of regulation to support complete elimination, including medicalization, of FGM/C.

Obviously there are huge challenges for Indonesia. However, let us turn these into opportunities for all of us to support Government to work towards achieving their goals of the SDGs. With advocacy, formal education and various training, highlighting gender equality, human rights and women’s health, health workers: doctors, midwives and TBAs,  can be empowered to promote women’s and girls’ health, to end various harmful practices in communities and to foster male involvement for gender equality.  Health practitioners can be empowered to turn the tide and say NO to medical procedures or any procedures for FGM/C.

Today is the continuation of a conversation, like the international seminar last year, and cultural change that will need to take place throughout Indonesia; a conversation that should involve the Government, CSOs including women’s groups, medical practitioners, providers and recipients of FGM/C, Religious Leaders, and the wider community. By bringing our individual experiences and perspectives to the table, together with Government through their commitment, we will be able to support a process for the elimination of FGM in Indonesia.

UNFPA is committed to continuously supporting MOWECP as the ministry with responsibility to coordinate various multisectoral efforts for FGM/C elimination. The coordination of various sectors and all women activists is crucial to this movement for elimination of FGM/C.

As a country with strong commitment for SDGs, we all hope and support MOWECP to mobilize all sectors’ contribution for the attainment of the SDGs target goals, especially Goal 5 on Gender Equality, specifically goal 5.3.2 on FGM/C elimination. Based on the discussions on SDGs indicators, the government will give ample opportunities for all elements of the society to get actively involved in discussions and to contribute to the formulation of the national indicators related to FGM/C and we have high hopes that MOWECP can coordinate these important multisector efforts for the formulation and endorsement of the national indicator related FGM/C.  

This forum is part of our contribution to commemorate the International Day of Human Rights that falls on December 10, and in line with the global commitment. We hope that a strategy with clear activities and strong partnership across sectors will be developed and implemented in the near future in Indonesia to realize Zero Tolerance towards FGM/C.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your commitment and for participating in this seminar. UNFPA will continue to maintain a strong partnership and working relationship with Government especially MOWECP, MOH, NCVAW, and with all you activists and advocates out there…who provide the energy and impetus for us to remain strong and united on eliminating FGM/C in this country.  We need to address FGM/C in Indonesia in order to uphold the right of all women and girls to a full and healthy life.

Thank you.

Terima kasih.