IPOH, Malaysia: The small air-conditioned room is pristine, clean to a level hospitals often endeavor to reach. The small clinic just outside Ipoh in central Malaysia now delivers basic healthcare to some 2,000 villagers in the area.
The doctor, Mahammad Yassin, says that over the past five years he has transformed the small room from a makeshift medical center into a proper, modern facility.
“It took time and after what had gone on here, I am happy with what we have achieved,” he told Bikyamasr.com, sipping his iced-coffee as he points to the new bed recently installed.
He was, however, referring to the use of the facility in years past as a place for female genital mutilation. Asha, a 19-year-old university student sitting nearby, nods silently as he tells of the place’s disturbing past. She was a victim of misinformed parents, the doctor argues.
“Malaysia went through this period when conservatism and getting closer to the Middle East was what a lot of people wanted and they believed genital cutting was appropriate,” he confirmed.
For Asha, she was one of at least 7 girls who had FGM performed on them.
“It was the scariest day of my life and I still have nightmares of the blood and the pain,” she told, wiping the tears from her eyes. “When I got older I was so mad at my parents that I ran away from home, but they have apologized so I have to deal with this.”
While FGM is quite uncommon in Malaysia, women entering their 20s were victims of their time and have suffered from the push to have FGM performed.
But Asha says her own experience can be a way to educate others in the country on the need not to have the procedure conducted.
“Let’s be honest, it does nothing but harm to women who have it done and in my own life the best thing I can do is tell people about my experience and what it means for me personally so other girls don’t have to go through the same experience,” the psychology student argued.
Yassin hopes that women like Asha, who were victims of the act, will help other rural families avoid making the same mistakes and threatening the health of their girls.
“What we have learned in Malaysia is that FGM is a dangerous practice, and while it does still exist in some rural and very conservative areas of the country, for the most part people are aware of its destructive capability,” he argued.
The World Health Organization defines FGM as the “partial or total removal of the clitoris.”
It is most prevalent in the Middle East and Africa and is not specific to one religion, as rural Christians and animists in Africa and the Middle East all participate in the practice.
Photo file MD