The new constitution of Somalia officially bans female genital cutting/female genital mutilation (FGC/FGM). Under Article 15, the constitution explicitly states “Circumcision of girls is a cruel and degrading customary practice, and is tantamount to torture. The circumcision of girls is prohibited.”
According to the World Health Organization, about 140 million girls and women worldwide have been directly impacted and are living with “consequences” of FGM. In the African continent alone, 92 million girls age 10 and older have undergone the procedure, with most procedures happening between infancy and the 15 years. FGM/FGC is considered a violation of human rights, but in some countries, it is culturally accepted by older generations.
The procedure has no recognized health benefits, but is responsible for many short and long-term consequences, including severe pain, shock, hemorrhage, tetanus, recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, infertility, and increased risk of child birth complications and newborn deaths. According to a 2006 study by the World Health Organization, which appeared in The Lancet, women who have experienced any of the four types of FGM are “significantly more likely than those without FGM to have adverse obstetric outcomes.” According to the study, greater degrees of cutting are associated with greater risk.
In Somalia, a reported 96 percent of girls and women have undergone FGM/FGC. Because of its cultural acceptance, many women are expected to have undergone FGC/FGM in order to marry. Activists there applaud the move, but warn that cultural rejection of the practice will be important now that the practice is officially banned by the constitution.
Flickr photograph via Abdurahman Warsame.