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Female circumcision in multicultural Singapore: The hidden cut

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Abstract

In recent years discussion about female genital mutilation (FGM) has expanded and the UN has recently called for a universal ban of the practice. The practice in Southeast Asia is widespread among Malay Muslims and, although different styles and practices exist, procedures conducted in medical clinics are extremely minor and, according to gynaecological research, have no effect on sexuality due to the clitoris being left totally untouched. One of the states in which Malay Muslims maintain such a tradition is Singapore. Nonetheless, Singapore is rarely mentioned in academic studies or even in reports discussing the ritual. Even inside Singapore, only Malays tend to know of the tradition, while other ethnic groups remain oblivious to the fact that Singapore is among the states that allow such an operation. The present article does not discuss FGM per se and avoids contributing to the diatribe about labels and values, although these are, of course, extremely relevant. Instead it focuses on the reasons for the practice remaining hidden and undiscussed in Singapore, so much so that some respondents did not know that they had been circumcised.

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