Female Circumcision and the Construction of Female Sexuality: A Study on Madurese in Indonesia

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This study explores the existing practice of female circumcision among the ethnic Madurese in the East Java province of Indonesia. The practice has long been believed to be part of the Islamization process as well as protecting the cultural traditions of the ethnic society in Madura. This study aimed to investigate two major issues: the prevalence of female circumcision in three districts on Madura Island, using a quantitative survey; and the cultural construction of female sexuality, using a qualitative method focused on observations and in-depth interviews with women, community leaders, and religious teachers. The findings of this study show that a greater number of females have been circumcised from as early as infants (under the age of one) to those in adolescence. The traditional views on the female body and sexuality have strongly influenced the continuity of the cultural practice. Moreover, observational analysis showed that Madurese society continues to believe that women who identify as Muslims are required to be circumcised. Women who are not circumcised are considered to have betrayed their religious, ethnic, and cultural identities. Furthermore, women cannot refuse or ask not to be circumcised, as many traditional families and religious leaders believe that the practice is required to purify the woman’s body and her sexuality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1987-2006
Number of pages20
JournalSexuality and Culture
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Cultural construction
  • Female circumcision
  • Female sexuality
  • Islamization
  • Women’s body


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