Somalia's Puntland moves to ban female genital mutilation

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
David Prado
  • A bill was approved that would criminalise female genital mutilation.
  • Puntland's justice minister said girls should be "left the way they are born".
  • Hospitals, midwives and traditional circumcisers will face stiff penalties.


Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region has taken a first step towards banning female genital mutilation (FGM) in a country where almost all women and girls are forced to undergo the internationally condemned practice.

Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni and his cabinet this week approved a bill to be submitted to parliament that would criminalise the ancient ritual, a measure anti-FGM campaigners said would boost their efforts to end the practice.

"It will be forbidden to circumcise girls. Girls in Puntland must be left the way they are born. Anyone who performs circumcision in the region will face the full force of the law," Puntland Justice Minister Awil Sheikh Hamud told reporters.

Justice Ministry officials said the bill includes stiff penalties for those who perform FGM, including hospitals, midwives and traditional circumcisers. No date has yet been set for it to be presented before parliament for a vote.

FGM, which involves the partial or total removal of the female genitalia, is almost universal in Somalia - with 98% of women and girls having been cut, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

There is currently no national law outlawing FGM in the Horn of Africa country.

Both Puntland and the breakaway state of Somaliland have issues fatwas - religious edicts - against the practice in the past, but there is no parliamentary legislation is in place.

FGM affects 200 million girls and women globally and can lead to a host of serious medical problems, according to the World Health Organization.

It can cause long-lasting mental and physical health problems including chronic infections, menstrual problems, infertility, pregnancy and childbirth complications.

In some cases, girls can bleed to death or die from infections.

Door-to-door

In many communities, girls are married soon after cutting, stifling their progress in education, health and employment.

School closures caused by the pandemic could lead to an extra two million girls being cut in the next decade, the UNFPA has estimated, hampering global efforts to stamp out the practice by 2030.

In Somalia, where the vaginal opening is also often sewn up - a practice called infibulation - charities have reported a surge in cases as circumcisers offer door-to-door services for girls stuck at home due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Campaigners said legislation banning FGM would boost their fight to end the practice.

Hailing it as a "great milestone", the UNFPA's head in Somalia, Anders Thomsen, said the bill would "have a ripple effect in the campaign to end FGM in Puntland" if approved.

"This means girls will be safe from the brutal cut," he added in a statement.

Somali anti-FGM campaigner Maymun Mahad said she still remembered undergoing the "very painful" practice.

"As a young woman, I welcome the move by the cabinet," she said.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Gauteng DA leader Solly Msimanga says the party's voters want it to explore conditional coalition talks with the ANC. 
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
It's a step in the right direction. An ANC-DA coalition would be the most stable option for SA
32% - 3541 votes
The DA should focus on working with all opposition parties, including the EFF, to unseat the ANC
15% - 1590 votes
The DA should rather remain in opposition than form a coalition with the ANC or the EFF
53% - 5834 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.99
+1.0%
Rand - Pound
20.30
+1.1%
Rand - Euro
17.55
+1.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.36
+0.5%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.9%
Gold
1,749.10
+0.4%
Silver
21.25
+1.5%
Palladium
1,840.16
-0.5%
Platinum
1,007.00
+1.4%
Brent Crude
83.19
-0.5%
Top 40
66,816
-0.3%
All Share
73,128
-0.3%
Resource 10
71,369
+0.8%
Industrial 25
88,068
-0.4%
Financial 15
16,117
-1.7%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE