Flag of Indonesia
The Republic of
Symbol of Indonesia

Location and cultural history

The Republic of Indonesia is an archipelago containg over 17,000 islands, of which Java is the most populous. It is the world's fourth largest country by population, after China, India and the USA. It also has the world's largest Muslim population, narrowly beating Pakistan. Other religions are Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. All are officially recognized but Islam (Sunni) dominates by weight of numbers. However, this does vary hugely between islands, with Bali being mainly Hindu and Irian Jaya Christian and animist. The capital city is Jakarta (formerly Batavia), in Java, but plans are proposed to build a new capital in Borneo (Kalimantan).

Map of the Indonesian Archipelago
Map of Indonesia, courtesy Lonely Planet.

Like other countries in the region, Indonesia's boundary is totally artificial, resulting from past colonial ventures. Indonesia was once the Dutch East Indies, in a region where four colonial powers were vying to acquire territory. Thus several islands are divided along colonial lines. Borneo is split into Kalimantan (Indonesia, formerly Dutch) and Brunei (Malaysia, formerly British), Timor is split into West Timor, Indonesian and East Timor (Timot Leste) formerly Portuguese, and the giant island of New Guinea is split into Papua New Guinea (formerly half German, half English, now independent) and Irian Jaya (Formerly Dutch, now Indonesian but not happy about it).


Kuta Beach, Bali Mulu caves
For the tourist - Kuta Beach, BaliFor the adventurous - caves in Gunung Mulu National Park, Sumatra.

Circumcision in Indonesia

Indonesian Boy

The Hindu population of Bali do not circumcise. Any interference with the foreskin is frowned upon, so phimosis is very common. As a result penile cancer is the most common cancer among men, and cervical cancer is common among women. Boon et al., 1989

The Muslim population circumcise their boys typically between age 5 and 7. It is a great ceremony, as elsewhere in the Islamic world. The boy dresses up in special clothes and is given presents and treats, which doubtless help to ease the pain. The operation itself is generally performed by medical professionals.

A young Javanese man, 'ML' aged 19, with a very well performed circumcision. His pubic hair is shaved, of course, because he is a Muslim.

The Melanesian population of Irian Jaya also mostly circumcise, either with a full circumcision or a dorsal slit. Their practices are much the same as the rest of the New Guinea population, so see our PNG page.

The Mahdian Klem (Klamp)

A major circumcision instrument that has come out of Indonesia, and has yet to be marketed widely elsewhere,is the Mahdian Klem, or Klamp. For a full report, with images, see our Instruments and Techniques page. (Yes, they do spell Klamp with a K in English).


Thanks to Wikipedia for geographhical data and Lonely Planet for the map. The cave photograph is by Chris Howes, courtest of Gunnung Mulu National Park.

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