This past week has marked a defining moment in the fight to end female genital mutilation (FGM). After the death of a 10-year-old girl in Somalia days after undergoing the procedure prompted worldwide outrage, the nation has launched an investigation into her death.
While FGM is actually illegal under Somalia’s constitution, the practice continues to be upheld by religious and conservative groups. This will mark the first prosecution the nation (where 98% of women have undergone FGM) has ever taken against the procedure,
10-year-old Deeqa died under horrific circumstances last week, bleeding to death after being mutilated by a traditional cutter in Olog village. Most young girls (and even infants) in Somalia undergo type 3 FGC, which is the most severe type and according to the World Health Organization, involves “removal of part or all of the external genitalia (clitoris, labia minora, and labia majora) and stitching and/or narrowing of the vaginal opening”.
But despite the outrage that ensued following her death, Deeqa’s own father has come forward in defense of the procedure. In an interview with Voice of America, Dahir Nuur stated, “We have seen the effects but it’s a culture in the country we live in”, adding that his daughter was simply “taken by Allah”.
Sadly, Dahir Nuur’s argument in defense of FGM is not uncommon. Proponents of the procedure tend to defend it on the base of culture or even religious grounds. This is, however, an outdated argument that encourages and justifies violence against women. Discussing FGM as if it is embedded into culture dismisses the implications of the procedure and absolves those who take part of it of responsibility. And the same goes for wife-beating, banning women from driving, dowry, etc.- these are all violations of basic human rights and should be treated as such, NOT as a component of culture.
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