MOGADISHU—Hope at last for girls in Somalia as the government signals its intentions to ban female genital mutilation, a brutal practice girls in Somalia have been forced to undergo for years.
If the new law is enacted, those found practicing the act would face criminal charges.
The practice, which has life-threatening side effects, is very popular in many African and Middle East countries. According to figures by the United Nations Childrens Fund, female genital mutilation in Somalia alone stands at 98 percent.
Among its effects are lifelong pain, infections, infertility and difficulties during childbirth.
“In the past when girls were subjected to FGM, it used to be something the society was proud of, but it’s no longer the same,” said Samatar. “People shy from being associated with FGM. Now, when parents want their daughters to undergo FGM, they opt for underground avenues rather than public. That’s a clear indicator that the number of cases has drastically reduced.”
Now the government is creating a clear policy that will end the practice.
Religious leaders, community heads and the country’s lawmakers are considering legislation initiated by the Ministry of Women.
Once the law comes into use, those found practicing the act would be arrested.
“To all those who practice FGM, we have seen the effect it has,” said Samatar. “This practice has to come to and end. The ministry is also working on establishing a law to ban FGM. If anyone will be found practicing this culture, they will be arrested by the government”.
Experts say a community mobilization effort will help end the practice and raise awareness of the law in a country where the practice of female genital mutilation is almost universal.
The practice has been outlawed in 18 other African countries.
Experts say eradicating the brutal practice in Somalia will take time. But banning it is a major step to ensuring that Somali girls will have a normal life in the future.