Lead Author: IBRAHIM Zainab
Co-Author(s): TEGAL Ermiza
Published by: The Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka
Year published: 2019

The Family Planning Association of Sri Lanka (FPA) commissioned a brief study in 2018 to understand the physical and psychosocial impacts of Female Genital Cutting (FGC)1 as reported by women in Sri Lanka. This exploratory work was done in a context where there is little formally published information on this issue in Sri Lanka in terms of what happens, what the motivations are and what women want in terms of support or services. This report aims to contribute to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the issue, to inform ways of addressing any harmful impacts of the practice, whilst ensuring that community perceptions and views are respected in the process.

Any consideration of the practice needs to also be placed within a context of some important external factors that have a bearing on the way the issue is framed and may be addressed. These include the context of heightened religious tensions in Sri Lanka, particularly following the devastating terrorist attacks of April 21 st, 2019. In the aftermath of this, there was a sharp increase of incidents reported from across Sri Lanka of harassment, discrimination, mob violence and threats to people who identify or perceived to identify as Muslim and a heightened sense of fear experienced particularly by Muslim women due to legal restrictions and extralegal actions on types of clothing that included face and head covers – common clothing among Muslim women. This context possibly shaped the conversations that this report is based on and will need to inform the ways the practice of FGC is framed and addressed and in consideration of potential points of entry and intervention. The issue of FGC is certainly one that has a bearing on the rights of children, since the procedure is performed on infants and young girls. Equally, a rights-based approach that considers women’s bodily integrity and their rights to sexual health is considered paramount in the ways impacts on girls and women are understood, explained and addressed. As this report shows, the spaces available to women to articulate and explore this issue is limited, even in the medical sphere, although that provides one trusted entry point for women. When the issue is not viewed through the framework of women’s sexual health and rights and rights to her bodily integrity, it also has a bearing on the type of support and services that are both asked for by women and recommended by other stakeholders.