The death of a 10-year-old girl in Somalia after she was subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) by a traditional circumciser has brought renewed attention to the issue in the East African country. While the practice is technically prohibited by Somalia’s constitution, the power wielded by religious and traditionalist conservatives is such that no politicians have dared to pass legislation barring the disfiguring procedure, which typically entails removing the external genitalia and sewing the vagina almost entirely closed. As a result, the woman who performed the procedure on the girl will face no consequences for her actions, according to Hawa Aden Mohamed, director of the Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development.
“The circumciser is suspected to have cut an important vein in the course of the operation,” Mohamed told Reuters. “The woman who performed the operation has not been arrested but even if she was, there is no law that would ensure she is punished for the act. This is just one among many cases happening on a daily basis across Somalia. [Lawmakers are] afraid of losing their political clout among the all-powerful conservative traditional and religious groups bent at retaining the practice.”
The estimated 200 million girls and women worldwide who have suffered FGM are often subject to a host of serious health problems, not to mention pain or significantly reduced pleasure during sex. According to the U.N., an estimated 98 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 in Somalia have had their genitals cut.