Somaliland: The Practice of Female Genital Mutilation


Somalilandsun – Female Genital Mutilation (F.G.M) is the partial or total cutting or removal of the external female genitalia for cultural and social reasons. It is usually performed on girls between the ages of 5 and 10. The girls remain sewn up until marriage, at which point they are either opened up during sexual intercourse causing pain and distress to both bride and groom or cut open with scissors. The procedure is also called pharaonic circumcision and it is usually performed with a razor blade without any painkiller for centuries.

    Pharaonic circumcision is a cruel practice based on traditional false beliefs. This circumcision has no place in Islam and Islamic Scholars condemn it calling it a cruel crime committed against young innocent girls.

    The major reasons for practicing Female Genital Mutilation (F.G.M) are:

    ●   Controlling girl’s sexuality before marriage.

• Believing that it is necessary for girl’s marriageability for having virginity assurance.
• Believing that men prefer a circumcised girl over uncircumcised girl.

    People who practice this kind of circumcision (pharaonic circumcision) fear that if their daughters are left uncircumcised, they may not be marriageable or even fear that the girl might bring shame to the family by being sexually active and becoming pregnant before marriage.

Generally, female circumcision includes a wide range of procedures and it is usually of three forms or kinds that include:

1. Sunnah Circumcision: This is the simplest form of circumcision called Islamic Circumcision where only the tip or prepuce of the girl’s clitoris is removed for medical reasons. The Sunnah Circumcision is practiced by most of the Islamic World. This circumcision does not affect the sexual pleasure or health of the circumcised girl.
2. Clitoridectomy: In this form, the entire clitoris of the girl is removed and some or all of the surrounding tissues. This is the first type of Female Genital Mutilation (F.G.M) or pharaonic circumcision. This circumcision does affect both the sexual pleasure and health of the circumcised girl.
3. Infibulation: This is the second type of Female Genital Mutilation (F.G.M) or pharaonic circumcision. This is the most extreme form of circumcision and badly affects both the sexual pleasure and health of the circumcised girl. In this procedure, the clitoris and labia minora are removed and then the labia majora is sewn closed while leaving a small opening for urination and release of menstrual blood. The surfaces are held together by stitching the edges of the wound and healed by tying the legs of the girl together.

The immediate risks after the procedure of female genital mutilation are: Hemorrhage (excessive bleeding), severe pain, fear, shock, infection, abscesses from damaged nerve endings long after the initial wound has healed, tetanus, inability to pass urine because of pain, swelling and inflammation following the operation that may lead to urinary tract infection. The most severe consequence is death due to excessive blood loss.

Long term complications include scarring, interference with the drainage of urine and menstrual blood, chronic urinary tract infections, and hip and back pain. Complications of childbirth could be a risk. Infant and maternal death rates are generally higher in those countries where female genital mutilation is practiced.

A Somali woman once explained Female Genital Mutilation and said: “A Somali woman experiences three sorrows in her life. The first sorrow is when she is infibulated (circumcised with F.G.M). The second sorrow is her wedding night. The third sorrow is the day she gives birth.”

The amputation of the clitoris and other sensitive tissue reduces a woman’s ability to experience complete sexual pleasure. For infibulated women, the consummation of marriage is likely to be painful because of the small sexual organ opening and the lack of elasticity in the scar tissue that forms it. 

The United Nations (UN) considers Female Genital Mutilation a violation of human rights. The World Health Organization (W.H.O) undertook a number of projects aimed at decreasing the incident of Female Genital Mutilation that include:

● As more people move to Western countries from countries where female circumcision (pharaonic circumcision) is performed, the practice is brought to the attention of health professionals in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia where Female Genital Mutilation is illegal.

● The girls of the immigrants from countries practicing Female Genital Mutilation (F.G.M) and born in the West are assured to be safe of this brutal practice, and even those, who were subjected to this cruel practice back home, are cared well. A girl or young woman who has recently had the procedure performed may require supportive care to control bleeding and antibiotics to prevent infection. Women who were circumcised as children may require medical care to treat complications. Pregnant women who have been infibulated may have to have the labial tissue cut open to allow the baby to be delivered safely. 

The Famous Islamic Jurisprudence Text named: Umdat Al-Salik states as follows:

“Circumcision is obligatory (for both men and women. For men it consists of removing the prepuce from the male organ (foreskin) and for women, removing the prepuce (tip) of the clitoris.” Sacred Islamic Reliance: page 59, Umdat Al-Salik  (Reliance of the Traveler), a manual of the Shafi’i School of Islamic jurisprudence, endorsed by Egypt’s very own Al-Azhar University of Cairo — The oldest and most prestigious university in the Islamic World.

The reason of why the two tips are cut off or removed is to prevent germs in the male and female organs. Such circumcision is part of the Islamic tradition as Sunnah and does not have any health risks or reduction of the sexuality of the female.

The Clitoridectomy and Infibulation are called together Female Genital Mutilation (F.G.M) or Pharaonic Circumcision. This cruel procedure changes the creation of Allah (S.W.T) and that is why it is regarded as serious crime in Islam.

Allah (Most High, Glorious is He) says: “No change should there be in the creation of Allah.” [Surat Ar-Ruum, Verse: 30]. 

Aisha (May Allah be pleased with her) narrated: The Prophet (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “When the two circumcised parts meet, then total bath is obligatory.” [Source of Hadith: Sahih Muslim and Sunan Ibn Majah

This hadith is not about the genital female mutilation. It is about the Islamic Sunnah Circumcision.

The UNICEFReport on Female Genital Mutilation in February 2016 released the following chart indicating the percentage of Female Genital Mutilation performed regularly by each country:

Somaliland and Somalia: 98%, Djibouti: 93%, Ethiopia: 74%, Egypt: 87%, Sudan: 87%, Eritrea: 83%, Guinea: 97%, Nigeria: 25%, Senegal: 25%, Kenya: 21%, Yemen: 19%, Tanzania: 15%, Iraq: 8%, Uganda: 1% etc.

The girls of the Somali-Speaking peoples in the Horn of Africa are mostly subjected to the most extreme, brutal form of Female Genital Mutilation (F.G.M) called INFIBULATION as it is required for guarding girls’ virginity which is completely false belief. Girls’ Faith in Allah and commitment to Islam guard their virginity and modesty from sin. Since Clitoridectomy Form and Infibulation Form have no place in Islamic Religion and have serious medical consequences, the Somali-speaking peoples as well as other African peoples practicing Female Genital Mutilation, wherever they are, must carry out relentless campaign to eradicate this brutal, savage practice.

Ibrahim Gagale Hassan