When a girl is taken — usually by her mother — to a free circumcision event held each spring in Bandung, Indonesia, she is handed over to a small group of women who, swiftly and yet with apparent affection, cut off a small piece of her genitals. Sponsored by the Assalaam Foundation, an Islamic educational and social-services organization, circumcisions take place in a prayer center or an emptied-out elementary-school classroom where desks are pushed together and covered with sheets and a pillow to serve as makeshift beds. The procedure takes several minutes. There is little blood involved. Afterward, the girl’s genital area is swabbed with the antiseptic Betadine. She is then helped back into her underwear and returned to a waiting area, where she’s given a small, celebratory gift — some fruit or a donated piece of clothing — and offered a cup of milk for refreshment. She has now joined a quiet majority in Indonesia, where, according to a 2003 study by the Population Council, an international research group, 96 percent of families surveyed reported that their daughters had undergone some form of circumcision by the time they reached 14.
These photos were taken in April 2006, at the foundation’s annual mass circumcision, which is free and open to the public and held during the lunar month marking the birth of the prophet Muhammad. The Assalaam Foundation runs several schools and a mosque in Bandung, Indonesia’s third-largest city and the capital of West Java. The photographer Stephanie Sinclair was taken to the circumcision event by a reproductive-health observer from Jakarta and allowed to spend several hours there. Over the course of that Sunday morning, more than 200 girls were circumcised, many of them appearing to be under the age of 5. Meanwhile, in a nearby building, more than 100 boys underwent a traditional circumcision as well.
According to Lukman Hakim, the foundation’s chairman of social services, there are three “benefits” to circumcising girls.
“One, it will stabilize her libido,” he said through an interpreter. “Two, it will make a woman look more beautiful in the eyes of her husband. And three, it will balance her psychology.”
......Many agree that a full ban is unlikely without strong support from the country’s religious leaders. According to the Population Council study, many Indonesians view circumcision for boys and girls as a religious duty.
........82 percent of Indonesian mothers who witnessed their daughters’ circumcision reported that it involved “cutting.” The women most often identified the clitoris as the affected body part. The amount of flesh removed, if any, was alternately described by circumcisers as being the size of a quarter-grain of rice, a guava seed, a bean, the tip of a leaf, the head of a needle.
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