Women's groups in the Somali town of Galkayo are lobbying the authorities in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland to enact a law banning female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), saying the practice was becoming widespread. Activists say FGM/C causes serious health problems to the women and is against their religion.
"Unfortunately, we have noticed that instead of decreasing, the practice seems to be re-emerging, particularly in camps for the displaced,” said Lul Madar, head of the Mudug Women’s Development Network, one of the organizations pushing for the enactment of an anti-FGM/C law.
Madar said the increase in FGM/C seemed to correspond to an increase in the incidence of rape, particularly in internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps.
"We have many parents who believe that if the girl is cut, it will make it hard for the rapist; unfortunately, it won’t stop the rapist but will only add to the suffering of the woman,” she said.
Madar said women’s groups like hers were lobbying the Puntland authorities to pass a law criminalizing the practice, adding that although such a law may not stamp it out, “it will have a fear effect and can be used by activists to fight FGM/C”.
Hawa Aden, executive director of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD), a group that advocates for women's issues, told IRIN the women were not only seeking a law but “also a religious fatwa [decree] proclaiming that FGM is Haram [illegal] under Islam.
“This will have an impact on the practice,” she said. “We must attack it on all fronts.”
Farhiya Jama, an anti-FGM/C activist, said she was determined to ensure that young girls did not undergo FGM/C. "I am 40 years old now and I still vividly remember when I was cut. It gives me nightmares.”
|We want to tell these men that circumcision does not enhance or add to a girl's value as a wife and a mother but actually diminishes it|
Jama said she suffered during childbirth and whenever she menstruates. "I dread the days when my period is close because of the pain I go through; it gets to the point where the pain makes it impossible to do anything. I don't want any girl to be subjected to this kind of suffering."
“Gudnin", or infibulation, as practised in Somalia, involves cutting off the external genitalia and sewing up the vagina, leaving a small hole for urine and menstruation.
Apart from the risks of severe blood loss, shock and infection, longer-term problems associated with FGM/C include infections of the urinary and reproductive tracts, infertility and a range of obstetric complications, such as postpartum haemorrhage and death of the baby, said Abdulkadir Jama Dhaga’ade, a gynaecologist-obstetrician and the director of Galkayo Medical Centre.
Dhaga’ade said FGM/C was one of the main contributing factors to the fistula cases he had been seeing. “It leads to prolonged labour and causes what is medically known as Uterine inertia.”
Madar of the Women’s Network said it was engaged in awareness campaigns targeting "not only the mothers and the girls but the men, particularly the young men of marriageable age, professionals and religious leaders. We want to tell these men that circumcision does not enhance or add to a girl's value as a wife and a mother but actually diminishes it."
The group is also taking its campaign to rural areas where the practice “is widespread”, she said.
Madar said convincing and winning the support of traditional elders and religious leaders was crucial to the group’s efforts.
"It is therefore very important to involve men, particularly religious leaders, in the campaign to eradicate FGM/C to debunk some of the myths that somehow the practice has a religious significance, or adds to the woman’s value," she said.