Women’s groups in the Somali town of Galkayo, near the place of birth of Waris Dirie, are lobbying the authorities in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland to enact a law banning female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), a practice that is very widespread throughout Somalia. Lul Madar, head of the Mudug Women’s Development Network, one of the organizations pushing for the enactment of an anti-FGM/C law, says that FGM is not decreasing in Somalia, but may even be increasing, especially in the many refugee camps for displaced Somalis. Internally displaced women living in such camps are also more prone to rape, Madar says.
“We have many parents who believe that if the girl is cut, it will make it hard for the rapist; unfortunately, it won’t stop the rapist but will only add to the suffering of the woman,” she explains. The women’s groups in Puntland are fighting not only for a law, but also for a fatwa against FGM, a Muslim ruling that would declare the practice as bot compatible with Islam. Other regions have seen such statements from Muslim clerics, who can often be more influential than law makers.
Including the men in the fight against FGM
The female activists in Puntland not only address women, who are usually the ones subjecting theirown daughters to the practice, but also men. Madar says it is important to address “particularly the young men of marriageable age, professionals and religious leaders. We want to tell these men that circumcision does not enhance or add to a girl’s value as a wife and a mother but actually diminishes it.”
Waris Dirie agrees with the statements made by the activists in her home region aroung Galkayo. “I am very happy to see these women fight against the cruelty of FGM. FGM must be fought everywhere in the world, but of course I am especially touched by the fact that these voices are being heard from the region I am from, the place where I myself was subjected to female genital mutilation”, Waris Dirie says.