Eliminating the Practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Somalia 89
II. CHANGE TO THE SOMALI CONSTITUTION
Chapter 47. 5 of the Constitutional Law of South Africa is titled “Protection from
Maltreatment, Neglect, Abuse of Degradation.” Section (c), Legislative Development, states:
“[F]emale genital mutilation and circumcision will be prohibited. A person participating in such
practices commits an offense. A child has the right to refuse circumcision and not be subjected to
unhygienic circumcision.” Additionally, the practice is regarded by Somalia’s new constitution as
“torture.” Article 15 ( 4) of the Provisional Constitution stipulates: “circumcision of girls is a cruel
and degrading customary practice, and is tantamount to torture. The circumcision of girls is
III. RESISTANCE TO CONSTITUTIONAL BAN
Those who resist the ban of FGM still conduct the procedure to please the men of their
tribe. The belief is that a young girl who is not cut is promiscuous and will be unfaithful to her
husband once she is married. Cutting various parts of the girl’s vagina makes intercourse painful
and unpleasurable, reducing the bride’s risk of being unfaithful. Despite the multitude of negative
effects that accompany FGM, there are many women who continue the cycle by forcing the
practice on their young daughters and ostracizing girls who have not undergone the procedure.
One Somali woman, Sadia Abdi, recalls the torments her younger cousin endured because she had
not received the procedure. Many people called Sadia’s little cousin “kintirleeyi,” an insult for
women with a clitoris. Sadia’s cousin committed suicide because of the ridicule.
Even with the recent constitutional ban on female genital cutting, the practice is still
prevalent in Somalia. Only thirty-three percent of girls and women in Somalia believe that the
practice should end. When asked why she forced her seven-year-old daughter to undergo the illegal
procedure, Muhibo Daahir stated that, “Our religion allows us to purify our daughters so that they
can get married when they are mature. The government cannot stop us from practicing our
religion.” Many who oppose the new constitutional ban agree with Daahir, stating that the ban
contradicts their religious beliefs and Somali cultural and traditional norms. Many believe that it
is female genital mutilation that has allowed Somali girls to stay pure for marriage. Opponents of
the new Somali Constitution also state that without female genital mutilation, Somali girls will
never wed because Somali men refuse to marry uncut girls.
Although relatively indiscernible, there has been a cultural shift in performing female
genital mutilation in some Somali regions, notable by a decline of the practice in northern parts of
Somalia. A survey conducted by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund
(UNICEF) in April 2013 found that approximately seventy-five percent of girls between the ages
of one and fourteen had not been cut in the northern region of Puntland, compared to ninety-eight
percent in other regions of Somalia. Moreover, in the region of Puntland, girls who are still
receiving the procedure are subject to a less severe form than the typically performed Type III.
According to UNICEF, the decrease in FGM could be a result of stability in the northern regions
of Somalia, where the population was not subject to a civil war that began in 1991. UNICEF cites
that awareness campaigns and public education about the dangers of female genital mutilation
could not be conducted in these “volatile areas” as they were in the northern regions of Somalia.