The government in Somaliland is expected to pass legislation addressing the rampant problem of female genital mutilation (FGM) in the region. Somaliland is an autonomous area inside Somalia, a country where 98 percent of women and girls have been cut, the highest rate of FGM in the world. The government recently issued a fatwa (religious edict) banning the two most extreme forms of the practice (see below). However, the fatwa has no legal authority.
Moreover, the fatwa failed to ban the practice altogether, leaving open the possibility of Type I FGM, which involves the partial or complete removal of the clitoris. Now activists fear that when subsequent legislation is passed, it will not go far enough.
Initial reports on the fatwa stated that the government had made Type I FGM mandatory for all girls in Somaliland.
Meanwhile in Switzerland, the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland recently issued a legal opinion saying Islamic law justifies the practice of FGM and that it is not harmful to girls. FGM is illegal in Switzerland and any type of cutting is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
FGM refers to all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia and/or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or other non-medical reasons.
The practice has serious and permanent negative impacts on the heath and sexuality of women and girls, including, in the short term, severe pain and bleeding, infection and urinary disturbances. Long-term effects include complications during childbirth, anemia, the formation of cysts and abscesses, keloid scar formation, damage to the urethra resulting in urinary incontinence, painful sexual intercourse and sexual dysfunction, hypersensitivity, increased risk of HIV transmission, as well as serious psychological effects.
FGM is classified as follows by the World Health Organization:
Type I: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the clitoral hood
Type II: Partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, with or without excision of the labia majora.
Type III: Narrowing of the vaginal orifice with a covering seal. The seal is formed by cutting and re-positioning the labia minora and/or the labia majora. This can take place with or without removal of the clitoris.
Type IV: All other harmful procedures to the female genitalia for non-medical purposes, for example: pricking, piercing, incising, scraping or cauterization.
Watch a clip from Clarion Project’s film Honor Diaries about FGM: