afrol News, 26 June
the peaceful capital of the self-proclaimed state of Somaliland, has
become a new centre for the Somali Diaspora wanting to perform female
genital mutilation (FGM) on their daughters. Most live in countries
where FGM is strictly forbidden, including when this is done abroad.
A team from the Norwegian public
broadcaster 'NRK' last week visited Hargeisa, where it easily found
practitioners of the outlawed practice of FGM (also referred to as
"female circumcision" or "female cutting"), which is widely condemned
as strongly harmful to women and girls, also by many Muslim religious
The Somalilander women performing FGM did so privately or in open
cooperation with public health facilities in Hargeisa, where most
worked as midwifes. Among Somalis, female genital mutilation is very
widespread and the UN estimates that 98 percent of women in Somaliland
and Somalia have been subjected to the harmful practice.
In most countries where the large Somali Diaspora is represented,
however, FGM is strictly outlawed. Research nevertheless shows that a
majority of Somali parents living abroad ignore the laws of their host
country and continue exposing their daughters to this culturally based
And as southern Somalia remains an unsafe destination, peaceful
Somaliland has emerged a safe haven for Somalis wanting to visit
friends and family. Or wanting to stick to traditions.
The 'NRK' team met with ten FGM practitioners in Hargeisa saying they
had performed the cut on at least 185 Somali girls living in Norway.
The practitioners further confirmed that Norway-based parents were
popular clients as they paid "well", typically euro 20 each girl.
European summer holidays were seen as the top season for these women
Based on these data, it is estimated that thousands of young girls are
brought to Hargeisa each year from Europe alone to undergo the
mutilation. Somali women rights organisations all over Europe and North
America have for years tried to address this practice, knowing that
each summer holiday, hundreds of young girls are taken to Hargeisa for
just this reason.
In Norway, this revelation caused a public outcry and fuelled the
debate about how to better enforce national legislation outlawing FGM.
Politicians have proposed anything from information campaigns targeting
Somalis in Norway, to obliging medics to report cases they come over to
the police and introducing obligatory health tests for girls returning
from summer holidays in Somalia.
While Somali parents living abroad can be taken to court for child
abuse after having taken their daughters to Somaliland to undergo FGM,
the Hargeisa practitioners operate in full legality. Attempts to outlaw
FGM in Somaliland have so far failed.
But there are an increasing number of Somalilander voices calling for
government action against FGM. Poet and journalist Bashir Goth recently
protested against the "physical torture and mutilation of women's
God-given sexual organs," adding the "practice should be banned and
Somaliland should join other pioneer African countries including
neighbouring Djibouti in ratifying the Maputo Protocol that seeks to
Also among Somalilander health workers, there is an increased
discussion about the harmful practice. Hargeisa midwife Safia Dualleh
Farah, who guided the 'NRK' team, strongly objected the practices but
said she understood her colleagues performing FGM. "They are cutting
the girls on their spare time because they earn too little working in
hospitals or health centres. They say they cannot afford to stop," she
A few women groups in Hargeisa have started to raise awareness on the
harms and dangers of FGM, but little has been achieved so far. As
Somaliland remains a non-recognised country, little international
effort is put into fighting FGM here, contrary to for example
neighbouring Ethiopia, where a majority of young mothers now reject the
practice following intensive information campaigns.
The UN children agency UNICEF together with the Senegal-based women
rights organisation Tostan until know have been able to arrange a few
sensitising seminars in Somaliland, focusing on "human rights to ensure
human dignity," according to Tostan Somaliland supervisor Suleiman
Mahdi Sh Hassan. The Hargeisa government so far however has shown
little interest in supporting this work.
By staff writers© afrol NewsURL: http://www.afrol.com/articles/25884Date: 6/27/2007