Female circumcision in Somalia: anthropological traits

Anthropol Anz. 1985 Dec; 43(4):311-26

Female circumcision in Somalia: anthropological traits

Grassivaro Gallo P, Abdisamed M.


In 1981, 2497 subjects (comprising women and girls) were interviewed in Somalia, mostly in Mogadish, about female circumcision. In this study there are presented the principle cultural trends which are connected with the custom and which have arisen from the research. Even today, the practice of female circumcision is universal in Somalia; the percentage of circumcised women was 99.3%. Infibulation is the commonest type of circumcision used (75.7%). The age of circumcision varies from birth to 15; the average being 7.5. The type of circumcision does not seem to be influenced by some environmental variables (e.g. birth place of parents or place of circumcision), it is primarily determined by the population of the individual region. Infibulation is accepted to the greatest extent by the pastoral populations of the middle/northern regions, principally in Ogaden and in the 4 Somalian regions on which it borders: Togdheer, Nugal, Muddug, Galgadud. In the southern regions (Upper, Middle, Lower Giuba) amongst rural populations or populations with a cattle/cultivation economy, there are also attenuated types of circumcision: sunna and clitoridectomia (20 to 30%). The evolution of the practice was studied by data of the subjects, of their mothers and of their daughters. From this analysis there was no indication toward non-circumcision. There is, however, a movement towards the attenuated forms of circumcision. The fundamental key to such an attenuated operation for a child seems to be the presence of the same attenuation in previous generations.

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