Two prominent religious leaders in Russia have provoked outrage after suggesting female genital mutilation could help reduce sexual promiscuity.
The scandal erupted on Wednesday when Vsevolod Chaplin, a former spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, rushed to the defence of Ismail Berdiyev, a senior Muslim cleric from Dagestan who said “all women” should be subjected to the practice to eliminate sexual depravity.
Mr Berdiyev, chairman of the Coordination Centre of North Caucasus Muslims, made the controversial comments when asked to comment on a report into the practice published earlier this week.
“All women should be circumcised so there would be no debauchery on earth, so that sexuality is minimised,” Mr Berdiyev, a prominent figure in Dagestan, told a correspondent from Interfax, a Russian news agency.
“The Almighty created woman to bear and raise children,” he added. “[Circumcision] would not affect that. Women would not stop giving birth. But there would be less promiscuity.”
He went on to clarify that although Islam does not prescribe the practice, “it is necessary to reduce female sexuality. If it was done to all women, it would be very good.”
Mr Berdiyev was commenting on a recent study that found female genital mutilation is common in remote mountain villages in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in Russia’s north Caucasus.
Research by the Russian Justice Initiative, an NGO, found that in areas where the practice continues female genital mutilation tends to be carried out on girls up to three years old, without anaesthetic and often in unsanitary conditions.
The researchers said most cases they came across involved removal, or part-removal, of the clitoris and labia.
Archpriest Chaplin, one of the most prominent Orthodox priests in Russia, rushed to the mufti’s defence after outraged headlines splashed across Russian media and social networks.
“What feminist howling!” he wrote in a Facebook post defending the right of minorities to preserve religious traditions.
“Circumcising all women probably isn’t necessary. Orthodox women don’t need it because they are not promiscuous,” he wrote.
“Of course God created women to bear and raise children. Feminism is a lie of the 20th century,” he added.