It was with a great pleasure and surprise that few days ago we read about the announcement from the Somali Government to introduce a new law banning FGM in the country.
Speaking at a conference in Mogadishu, Sahra Mohamed Ali Samatar, Ministry of Women Affairs, said: “time has come to eradicate this bad practice and protect the rights of girls and women in our country”.
Somalia is amongst the countries in the world with the highest FGM prevalence, estimated by UNICEF to be at 98% in the age group 15-49. The UN agency highlights that the practice is primarily performed on girls aged 4-11, with prevalence in this age group of 95%.
It is widely recognized by experts that FGM can cause severe medical complications, namely severe bleeding, complications during childbirth, cysts, inability to urinate, septicemia and other infections that can sometimes lead to death. Moreover FGM can cause strong psychological effects on women leaving them scare they will never completely recover physically and emotionally.
Although condemned by all religions, civil society organisations, international agencies and governments as a form of Human Rights violation, FGM is still widely performed as a result of traditional views which consequently led to stigma and discrimination towards women that are not circumcised. This stigma contributes to trap women and girls in the belief that they have to undergone FGM in order to be “accepted” by their society.
This big news from the Somali Government came however in a good timing this summer period, where the debate around FGM was more vivid than ever, both in the UK and internationally. In fact, already in June, the Prime Minister David Cameron urged to introduce a “protection orders” to prevent girls being taken abroad from UK to undergo FGM, as in the UK FGM has been illegal since 1985. It has been estimated that 137,000 women in the UK are living with the consequences of FGM and 60,000 young girls under the age of 15 are at risk. Recently, the US President Obama in his visit to Kenya targeted FGM as a “barbaric practice that threatens women as a second-class citizens” and claimed its end immediately. Moreover, as Somalia, other countries have announced to outlaw FGM earlier this summer, like Sierra Leone and Nigeria.
If approved, Somalia’s new law will have a significant weight and will for sure contribute to eradicate FGM in the region. But, from our experience spanning nearly three decades, we know that criminalisation alone is simply not enough. FGM is an outdated cultural practice and so what needs to take place is awareness raising and educating affected communities.
This is exactly what JAN Trust does. With our Against FGM campaign, we deliver workshops in schools, colleges, statutory organisations and to communities in order to help people understand the issue surrounding FGM as well as highlighting support available for victims and condemnation of the inhumane practice within religions. We also provide training for practitioners including health professionals, social workers and the Police in order help them to detect cases and help victims effectively. In the last four years we have delivered over 190 schools sessions and worked with over 8,000 students and practitioners and over 9,000 community members across London and the UK.
Some quotes from our users include:
‘We are now aware of FGM which is a worldwide concern and it should be taught in all schools’
‘This session was helpful and informative – now we know the risks. Thanks’
‘This is an extremely important issue that was conducted and presented fantastically and in a brilliant manner’
To find out more and to support our work please visit our page at: http://jantrust.org/projects/against-fgm