Aid agencies in Somaliland warn FGM edict falls short of eradicating practice

A woman in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliand, shows a blade and homemade anti-bleeding powder typical of those used by practitioners of female genital mutilation. Photograph: Georgina Goodwin/UNFPA

Aid agencies in Somaliland have termed the recent government directive banning certain forms of female genital mutilation counter-productive in eradicating the practice.

Save the Children, CARE International and International Rescue Committee (IRC) said in a joint statement Friday the religious edict issued by the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs ran counter ‘against the commitment to abandon FGM/C and eliminate all harmful practices.’

“Female Genital Mutilation is a harmful procedure regardless the level of mutilation. It must be discouraged at all levels,’’ says Timothy Bishop of Save the Children Somalia/Somaliland on behalf of the other organizations.

Somaliland issued a fatwa (religious edict) February 6 banning the ‘Pheroni’ (infibulation) type of FGM which is considered an extreme form where the external genitalia are removed and the vaginal opening sewn or sealed closed but in the same breath made the Sunni style compulsory. “Cutting (Sunni) should be performed and is compulsory, this should also be observed in a way in which the Sharia Law deems appropriate and the mathab shaafici in Somaliland,” the edict read in part.

The government also said victims of ‘Pheroni’ type will be compensated though it did not specify how this would be realized.

But in a joint statement Friday, the organizations said the decision will erode decades of investments made in ending FGM/C in Somalia/Somaliland and undermines the mobilisation, awareness raising and prevention work undertaken by communities, national and international organizations and the government aiming at total abandonment of FGM/C in Somalia/Somaliland.

However the organisations welcomed the banning of extreme forms of FGM/C but insisted that the decision should apply to all forms of FGM/C. The organisations added they will continue to engage with the government of Somaliland to explore ways in which decisions made will be for the best interest of a child in Somaliland.

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