Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen, on Wednesday, nullified a letter submitted to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) seeking a ruling in Islamic law regarding 'female circumcision'.
In a memo addressed to HPA's Director General Maimoona Aboobakr, Minister Ameen wrote that the State does not support female genital mutilation (FGM), declaring that the practice is against government policy.
He also expressed his belief that there were no grounds for HPA to seek an Islamic ruling on the matter, and ordered the health agency to annul the letter and inform the Islamic Ministry of the nullification.
By this time, Islamic Ministry had requested the highest committee on Islamic fatwah to deliver an official ruling on the matter.
However, the reason for HPA addressing a letter to the Islamic Ministry in the first place is currently unclear.
The topic of female genital mutilation is currently being widely discussed on social media, with the public expressing concerns over some scholars openly promoting FGM as a religious practice.
Speaking against the issue, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom stated that there can be no basis for female genital mutilation in Islamic law.
Speaker of Parliament and former President Mohamed Nasheed stated that a ruling was not needed over the issue of FGM, since the Child Rights Protection Act has already been passed.
He described FGM as sexual abuse carried out under the name of circumcision and announced that measures must be taken against those supporting the practice.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies FGM as a violation of the human rights of girls and women, as the procedure intentionally alters or cause injury to the female genitalia for non-medical reasons.
According to WHO, this procedure can result in severe pain, haemorrhage, fever, infections, urinary problems, wound healing problems, injury to surrounding genital tissue, shock and even death in some cases.
Long-term consequences may also include menstrual problems, sexual problems, increased risk of childbirth complications, need for later surgeries and psychological problems as well.
Statistics by WHO estimate that more than three million girls are annually at risk of undergoing the risky and damaging procedure. The cultural practice of female genital mutilation is found most commonly in countries belonging to Africa, the Middle East and Asia.