Three international aid agencies on Saturday expressed concern over a recent ruling by the government of Somaliland in Somalia that encourages female genital mutilation (FGM).
In a joint statement, Save the Children, CARE International, and International Rescue Committee (IRC), said the Feb. 6 ruling goes against the commitment to abandon female cutting and eliminate all harmful practices.
“Female genital mutilation is a harmful procedure regardless the level of mutilation. It must be discouraged at all levels,” said Timothy Bishop of Save the Children Somalia/Somaliland on behalf of the other organizations.
However, the organizations welcomed the banning of extreme forms of FGM but insisted that the decision should apply to all forms of FGM.
On Feb. 6, Somaliland announced a new fatwa, or religious edict, banning two of the three types of female cutting.
The edict by the Ministry of Religious Affairs allows FGM victims to receive compensation but it does not say whether the compensation will be paid by the government or by violators of the ban.
According to the organizations, the ruling made a certain type of FGM/C “mandatory” for every girl in Somaliland and at the same time banning the most extreme forms.
The religious edict came barely a month after Somaliland’s parliament approved a bill criminalizing rape and requiring prison terms for those who are convicted.
Female cutting, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is also often performed on girls under the age of 15, resulting in complications that range from bleeding and infection to problems with urination and complications with childbearing.
Somalia is among countries in which FGM is most prevalent. An estimated 98 percent of Somali females ages 15 to 49 have undergone the procedure.
The aid agencies said the decision to encourage FGM will erode decades of investments made in ending FGM in Somalia/Somaliland and undermines the mobilization, awareness-raising and prevention work undertaken by communities, national and international organizations and the government aiming at total abandonment of FGM/C in Somalia/Somaliland.
The organizations said they will continue to engage with the government of Somaliland to explore ways in which decisions made will be for the best interest of a child in Somaliland.