Young Girls in Somalia are Dying from Genital Mutilation

There†has been a spate of deaths in Somalia and dozens of hospitalizations as a result of girls as young as 10†being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM).

The latest deaths†involve sisters†Aasiyo and Khadijo Farah Abdi Warsame, who bled to death after being subjected to the practice on September 10†in the northern Somali state of Puntland. This makes at least four deaths and several hospitalizations in just the past three months. Understandably, officials and human rights campaigners are concerned.

“More and more cases of girls who have died or end up seriously injured after FGM are coming out,” Hawa Aden Mohamed, director of the local group Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development, told the Malayia Sun. “These cases confirm what we have been saying all along – that FGM kills and that we need a law to stop it. The harm it causes is blatantly clear.”

This comes after a high-profiled case in July of 2018 where 10-year-old†Deeqa Dahir Nuur bled to death. That case prompted an investigation by†Somalia’s attorney general, Ahmed Ali Dahir, something that was hailed at the time as a groundbreaking step to ending this practice but in recent weeks appears to have stalled.

Female genital mutilation is nearly universal in Somalia, and†an estimated†98 percent of women in the country aged 15 to 49 have undergone some form of what is dubbed female circumcision. However, unlike male circumcision (which is also heavily debated), the process is far riskier and more invasive.

The practice most often used in Somalia involves removing the outer portions of the genitalia, then sewing up the vagina, so only a small opening is left to pass menstrual blood. Many times this will cause complications and makes sex and childbirth particularly painful. The risk of infection is also incredibly high, not least of which because it is often carried out by unregulated “cutters”.

While FGM is often seen as a religious rite, Islamic scholars and politicians alike have made it clear that Islam†does not demand female circumcision. As such, Somalia’s constitution actually forbids the practice, but there are no direct legal mechanisms in place to enforce that ban. Interestingly, Puntland†has passed a law to enforce the ban, but so far it has not been enshrined.

This, campaigners say, is costing young women their health and, clearly, their lives.

“It is shocking that, with the massive publicity of the Deeqa case and subsequent commitment by the Somali government to do more, on the ground change does not yet seem to be happening,” Brendan Wynne of Donor Direct Action†tells the Guardian. “Girls continue to die from this devastating abuse while we wait for politicians to move.”

Given that most cases of female genital mutilation are never reported and that deaths†from the practice are often not specifically attributed to FGM, getting a true picture of how many young women in Somalia are falling ill and even dying because of this wholly unnecessary form of abuse is difficult.

What we do know is that this is entirely preventable.

Groups like Plan International have authored specific schemes to help end this practice. Laws banning FGM are important, because they can target the people who carry out these hideous operations on young women and make that a criminal offense. However, that alone can’t stop the practice.

International groups recommend education plans that target both the young and older generations. Young women must be empowered to refuse FGM and know that the law is on their side.

Older generations are also key to this effort too as, particularly in Muslim households, grandmothers are in a position to exert some influence and look out for the girls in their family. Empowering grandmothers, therefore, empowers young women too.

Another key component is educating the wider community that Islam does not require FGM.

Communities often do not support the practice, but they are led to believe that in order to be godly, it is something they must subject their daughters to. This is false. There is no demand in Islamic scripture and there are in fact strict prohibitions on harmful practices directed at children. Helping people see the difference between tradition and religious teaching is key for empowering communities to say no to FGM.

Among other important steps is that the international community must hold countries like Somalia to account on their promises to end FGM.

TAKE ACTION!

Urge†Somalia’s attorney general Ahmed Ali Dahir to take immediate action to investigate and bring the full weight of the law against people practicing female genital mutilation. Enough is enough, sign the petition now!

If†you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. Youíll find Care2ís vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Tobin Jones.

72 comments

Mary B
Mary B5 months ago

EDWARD VAUGHN , the HELL we can't protest this horrible practice you right wing bastard !

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Ingrid A
Past Member 6 months ago

Done

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Caitlin L
Past Member 6 months ago

Signed, of course.

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Paulo R
Paulo R6 months ago

signed in September. ty

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Lesa D
Past Member 6 months ago

#63075 petition signed...

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Lesa D
Past Member 6 months ago

thank you Steve...

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KS G
KS Goh6 months ago

Thanks for the article

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Paula A
Patricia A6 months ago

Signed. Thank you.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson6 months ago

Horrible.

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Carol C
Carol C6 months ago

Petition signed. This cruel and deadly practice must be stopped.

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