Published by: University of Malaya Press
Year published: 2021

The practice of female circumcision in Malaysia is multifaceted; it is a collective behaviour governed by an interplay of aspects, mainly culture, religion, and health. This study seeks to extend the existing knowledge on female circumcision in Malaysia by researching the perception of Muslim Malays towards the practice, in particular youth and mothers, through an online questionnaire and focus group discussions. The questionnaire was analysed using descriptive statistics, while the transcripts from the focus group discussions were analysed thematically.

Main findings from the online questionnaire

Key findings from the online questionnaire suggest that the majority of the respondents held the belief that the practice is justified by religion. A large majority believed the practice can promote self-hygiene. Furthermore, almost a third of respondents perceived that female circumcision has no risks or poses a minimum risk, although a minority also believed it is a high-risk practice. Over half of the respondents stated that they do not receive pressure from any party to practice female circumcision. Family pressure is one of the main reasons for the continuing of the practice for respondents who do indicate some sort of pressure is upon them. Most respondents were likely to carry out female circumcision even without religious or cultural obligations. More than half of the respondents indicated that they would not continue with the practice if there were no health benefits. The level of trust in doctors was perceived as very high among the respondents which could lead to possibilities for education.

Main findings from the focus group discussions

Salient themes identified from the focus group discussions were hygiene and cleanliness as a perceived benefit of female circumcision; the link between the practice and custom, culture and tradition; and the notion of religious obligation associated with the practice. There appeared to be differing opinions about religious rulings, comparison of female circumcision to male circumcision, the mildness of the practice, and influence of, and trust towards doctors.