Somalia announces first prosecution for female genital mutilation

LONDON, July 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Somalia's Attorney General Ahmed Ali Dahir announced on Wednesday the country's first ever prosecution against female genital mutilation (FGM) following the death of a 10-year-old girl, an adviser to the government said.

Ifrah Ahmed, who advises Somalia on gender issues, said the attorney general was sending a team of investigators to find out more about the death of the girl, Deeqa, who suffered severe bleeding after her mother took her to a traditional cutter.

The announcement was made at a conference on FGM attended by officials, religious leaders and journalists, which was co-hosted in Mogadishu by the Global Media Campaign to End FGM and the Ifrah Foundation.

RELATED: Kalas Girls Primary School, a safe haven for girls escaping female genital mutilation

10 PHOTOS
Kalas Girls Primary School, a safe haven for girls escaping female genital mutilation
See Gallery
Kalas Girls Primary School, a safe haven for girls escaping female genital mutilation
Magdalene Nantongo (C), head teacher of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, poses with students in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Magdalene Nantongo, head teacher of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, poses in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This photo taken on January 31, 2018 shows a message plate at Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) or child marriage, at Amudat town, northeast Uganda. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Students of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, pose in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
KARAMOJA, UGANDA - 2018/02/01: A 12-year-old shows scars she received when relatives beat her after she tried to escape from a marriage to a much older man. She's now in school at Kalas Girls Primary School, Amudat District, Karamoja, Uganda. Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been outlawed in Uganda since 2010, but aid workers and police say it's still being practiced by tribes in the northeast, including the Pokots, Sebei, Tepeth and Kadama. (Photo by Sally Hayden/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
KARAMOJA, UGANDA - 2018/02/01: Girls sit in the yard at Kalas Girls Primary School, Amudat District, Karamoja, Uganda. They each escaped home after their families tried to force them to undergo FGM or to enter into an early marriage. Female genital mutilation (FGM) has been outlawed in Uganda since 2010, but aid workers and police say it's still being practiced by tribes in the northeast, including the Pokots, Sebei, Tepeth and Kadama. (Photo by Sally Hayden/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Program Analyst of United Nations Population Fund Esther Cherop (R) speaks with girls who escaped from female genital mutilation (FGM) or child marriage, at Kalas Girl's primary school at Amudat town in the northeast of Uganda on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Magdalene Nantongo, head teacher of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, speaks on the phone to accept a new girl to the school, in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Students of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, sit near a messagee place in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
Students of Kalas Girl's primary school, which hosts escaped girls from female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage, pose in Amudat town, northeast Uganda, on January 31, 2018. The UN estimates that over 200 million girls and women have experienced FGM which is a life-threatening procedure that involves the partial or total removal of a woman's external genitalia. February 6, 2018, marks the 6th International Day of Zero Tolerance for FGM. / AFP PHOTO / Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"We are ready to take it to court," the attorney general was quoted as saying on Twitter by the organizers.

Deeqa's death has prompted campaigners to renew calls for Somalia to pass a law on FGM, which affects 98 percent of women and girls - the highest rate in the world, according to United Nations data.

Somalia's constitution prohibits FGM, but efforts to pass legislation to punish offenders have been stalled by parliamentarians afraid of losing votes.

Ahmed confirmed news of the attorney general's announcement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Mogadishu.

"He said they had opened the case in Mogadishu and that they would investigate and deal with the parents," said Ahmed, whose charity, the Ifrah Foundation, campaigns to end FGM in Somalia.

"He told the conference he would bring the family to justice."

Somalia does not have a law against FGM, but campaign group 28 Too Many said offenders could still be prosecuted under the country's Penal Code, which makes it a criminal offense to cause hurt to another.

An estimated 200 million girls and women have undergone FGM, according to U.N. data. Many girls in Somalia undergo the most extreme form of the ancient ritual in which the external genitalia are removed and the vaginal opening is sewn up.

Deeqa was taken by her mother to a traditional circumciser on July 14 in central Somalia's Galmudug state and died in hospital two days later.

Her father was quoted by international media this week as defending the practice, saying he believed his daughter was "taken by Allah."

Many people believe the ritual is an important part of their tradition and a religious obligation, although it is not mentioned in the Koran.

Organizers said the attorney general had also urged Somalia's religious leaders to use radio and TV to speak out against FGM. (Reporting by Emma Batha. Editing by Katy Migiro. (Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.))

Read Full Story