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Somalia announces first prosecution for FGM

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Maasai girls arrive for the start of a social event advocating against harmful practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. Somalia has taken the lead to act against blotched FGM cases. Reuters

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – The authorities in Somalia have said they will prosecute those responsible for the death of a 10-year-old girl who bled to death recently after being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM).

The prosecution, if taken, would be the first of its kind in Somalia where over 90 per cent of girls and woman are subjected to the practice.

Somalia’s Attorney General Ahmed Ali Dahir had announced on Wednesday that the government would be prosecuting the woman who was responsible for the death girl.

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, Ms 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.

“We are ready to take it to court,” the attorney general was quoted as saying on Twitter by the organisers.

Ms 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.

Ms 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 Ms Ahmed, whose charity, the Ifrah Foundation, campaigns to end FGM in Somalia.

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 UN 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.

Ms 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.

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