Current Situation of FGM in Somalia
‘If you are a girl living in Somalia today, there is 78 to 97 percent chance you become circumcised’
Worldwide more than ten million girls have been circumcised. This practice occurs profoundly in countries in Africa and the Middle East. In light of the national and international fight against female genital mutilation (FGM) Pharos, HIRDA and Platform 6/2 organised Zero Tolerance Day in Utrecht to discuss the progress that has been made so far.
Declaration against FGM from Dutch government
FGM happens not only far away from the Netherlands. Girls living here, but whose families originate from the countries where this practice is a tradition, run the risk of being circumcised. Nur Albayrak of the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice, therefore, takes the opportunity to present the updated official Decleration against FGM at the conference. ‘This small document, states that circumcising girls is officially prohibited in the Netherlands and everyone who is somehow involved will be prosecuted for child abuse. Even if the person who performs the circumcision is not Dutch or not staying in the Netherlands, can be arrested and prosecuted by the Dutch public prosecutor,’ explains Albayrak. According to the Jeugdgezondheidszorg (Youth Health Care) this declaration is a very effective tool to communicate the message that FGM is illegal in the Netherlands. ‘Because of its official looks, the declaration has an impact on the recipient.’
Consulting-hours for circumcised women
Besides the declaration, seven Dutch local municipalities have opened the so-called Care for mutilated women consulting-hours, especially for women who are suffering from the consequences of FGM that has been performed on them in their childhood. It’s a pilot project, subsidised until December 2014. Last year 51 women have reached the office hours to ask for help. The women are referred to a gynaecologist, urologist or sexologist, depending on the problem. Common complains are menstruation problems, stomachache and pain during intercourse. Marisa Abdulgani works as a nurse at the Haga Hospital, a pioneer in this project, and provides moral support to the women who come to a consult. ‘Before they are here to meet a doctor, they have gathered a lot of courage to put their fear and shame aside’, she explains. ‘The fact that these women come to us is only possible thanks to the key persons, who talk to these women and offer them the opportunity to improve their health situation by paying a visit to the doctor.’
FSAN, the Federation of Somali Association in the Netherlands, has set up a project to fight the practice of FGM in Europe. Under the name Create YouthNet the organisation engages international youth all over Europe, and trains them how to raise awareness through writing blogs and on social media.
Current situation in Somalia
All these projects fight the matter among people living in Europe. But what can we do in the countries where circumcision of women is not illegal, but a traditional practice applied on a daily basis to thousands of young girls? Before, we can think of a solution we need to understand the current situation of girls’ circumcision. Sylvana Rikkert examined this matter, on behalf of HIRDA, in Somalia. With the use of the World Citizens Panel, Oxfam Novib’s research method, 3081 people were asked to answer a survey on a smart phone. The research is not completed yet, however, Rikkert presented the first main conclusions of this research on Zero Tolerance Day:
‘If you are today, on February 6th 2014, a girl in Somalia, there is 78 to 97 percent chance you become circumcised. If it happens, it happens between the fifth and tenth year of one’s life, by a female using a raiser cut. The most popular method at the moment is the so-called Sunah, a small cut in the clitoris, which is closed with two stitches. How strangely this may sound, we see a small silver lining, because grown up women indicate to be circumcised much more severe. About 37 percent of the questioned people states to be against FGM. However, because an uncircumcised woman is being stigmatized, associated with a prostitute, and has no chance on marriage, the practice is still alive and conducted in such high amounts. The only thing NGOs can do, is to keep raising awareness. The attitude is slowly changing considering the less damaging circumcising method that is currently being used. We need to believe in the power of education that can increase the change of attitude!’
See below the info graphic on the current practice of FGM in Somalia!