Turning point

10-year-old’s tragic death sparks first FGM prosecution in Somalia

Amran Mahamood, who made a living for 15 years by circumcising young girls in Somalia, gave it up after a religious leader convinced her the rite was not required by Islamic law. (Nichole Sobecki/Getty Images)

Does this signal the beginning of a legal tidal wave against FGM?

The death of a 10-year-old girl, who hemorrhaged after the cutter severed a vein, has resulted in Somalia’s first prosecution for female genital mutilation. According to attorney general Ahmed Ali Dahir, “We are ready to take it to court,” he said in a conference last week, and has sent a team of investigators to interview the girl’s parents and the village cutter.

“Deeqa’s passing is the most high-profile death in many years in Somalia, where complications from FGM are generally denied and rarely publicised,” writes The Guardian. Her three sisters also reportedly had the procedure done at the same time. Around 98 percent of women in Somalia reportedly undergo female genital mutilation, usually between the ages of five to nine. Performed by untrained midwives and healers using knives and razors, the violent circumcision is dangerous and yet extremely normalized.

Female genital mutilation is technically constitutionally illegal in Somalia, but still upheld by conservative and religious groups who work to squash legislation banning any pushback on the offenders. Overall, silence around the act and its possible complications, including death, is deafening.

The most severe form of mutilation involves cutting and repositioning the labia, leaving a small hole through which the women can pass menstrual blood. The health risks, not to mention the psychological damage, can obviously be drastic.

The deputy prime minister Mahdi Mohamed Gulaid also spoke out, saying, “It is not acceptable that in the 21st century FGM is continuing in Somalia. It should not be part of our culture. It is definitely not part of the Islamic religion.”

FGM survivor and activist Ifrah Ahmed, told the Guardian the announcement of the prosecution “had taken everyone by surprise” and that “it shows just how quickly things can move when there is political will.” Still, the road to progress will be a long one, note activists, but the announcement is the first sign that change is perhaps on the horizon.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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