I once asked my mother why boys had to be circumcised, but girls didn’t. Growing up in Singapore in the 1990s, it was more common for boys to be circumcised at the age of 7 or 9, where it resembled more of a rite of passage. They were not allowed to eat certain foods, had to wear a kain sarong for less discomfort, and had to be fanned at night to keep dry. My mother said that it wasn’t compulsory for girls, and anyway, the procedure was just “a tiny cut” — something that she felt was negligible, unnoticeable, and probably not a big deal if it wasn’t done.
Recenlty, photographs taken by Stephanie Sinclair of a mass sunat perempuan (female circumcision) ceremony in Bandung, Indonesia, in 2006 and published in 2008, surfaced again late last year. The ceremony that Sinclair attended was organised and sponsored by Yayasan Assalaam Bandung, a foundation that provides Islamic education and social welfare services. Yayasan Assalaam sees itself to be an open, inclusive, moderate, and dynamic organisation.