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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Dr Claudia Merli

Merli, C. (2008). Sunat for girls in southern Thailand: Its relation to traditional midwifery, male circumcision and other obstetrical practices. Finnish Journal of Ethnicity and Migration 3(2): 32-41.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

Among the Thai- and Malay-speaking Muslims living in southern Thailand, the traditional midwife (alternatively called mootamjae in Thai or bidan in Malay) performs a mild form of female genital cutting (FGC) on baby girls. This article is based on material collected in the Satun province, located on the Andaman coast, bordering on the Malaysian state of Perlis (once part of Kedah). People have different views of the practice: men question the cutting, considering it both un-Islamic and un-modern, whereas women generally support it. In evident contrast to this debate and to the privacy surrounding FGC ritual, a large public male circumcision ritual takes place once a year. Both practices are called sunat by the local people, distinguishing sunat perempuan for girls and sunat lelaki for boys. Both forms should be analysed with regard to the increasing medicalisation of birth, which while depriving bidan and women of their agency and authority, performs other forms of genital cutting in the delivery room, in the form of routine episiotomies, strongly opposed by local women.