Tackling female genital cutting in Somalia

Lancet. 2001 oct;358(9288):1179

Tackling female genital cutting in Somalia

Ford N


Before the collapse of the Somali government in 1991, there was support for elimination of female gen- ital cutting; the practice was banned from hospitals and health research was conducted. But a decade of civil war put a stop to any attempts at coordinated national action of any kind, and today Somalia has one of the highest rates of genital cutting of any country—98% according to WHO.1

The most extreme form of cutting is practised in Somalia, and involves removal of the clitoris, the labia minora, and the labia majora, and subsequent rejoining the cut edges of the labia (infibulation). This is a pre- Islamic custom dating from the time of the Pharoahs and is also found in Christian and Jewish women in other parts of the Horn of Africa. This procedure is associated with significant morbidity: 39% of women in Somalia are reported to have immediate sub- stantial complications. Haemorrhage, infection, tetanus, and septicaemia are among the immediate health con- sequences; long-term effects include impaired urinary and menstrual func- tion, chronic genital pain, cysts, neu- romas, ulcers, incontinence, and infertility. Childbirth requires cutting and repairing the infibulation, which causes additional morbidity and increases the chances of maternal and child mortality…

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