Last updated: June 2022
In Somalia, FGM is almost universally practiced throughout the country. This practice has remained pervasive and constitutes a strong social norm because it is considered as a requirement for marriage for girls. FGM is seen as a way for families to gain social acceptance and to ensure their daughters can get married off before getting pregnant, while many families believe that the practice has a religious basis. FGM/C is commonly performed by traditional circumcisers.
Nearly all women in Somalia have undergone FGM. A survey of 2020 indicated that 99% of Somali women aged 15-49 have undergone FGM. The majority of girls (71%) are circumcised between ages 5-9. The most common form of FGM practiced in Somalia is the Pharaonic also known as infibulation (Type III in WHO classification), with 64% of women surveyed experiencing it. Women of lower socio-economic status reportedly had higher levels of Pharaonic FGM. Women who have been infibulated, must undergo a practice called deinfibulation in order to have sexual intercourse and give birth. Deinfibulation is sometimes practiced in order to improve women’s health condition. Some women may undergo reinfibulation after they give birth. Most Somalis do not perceive Sunna (Type I in WHO classification) as FGM/C and do not perceive it as physical or psychologically harmful. During 2020, an increase in FGM cases has been reported due to Covid-19 imposed closure of schools.
Even though Somalia’s Provisional 2012 Constitution stipulates that ‘circumcision of girls is a cruel and degrading customary practice, and is tantamount to torture [and that] the circumcision of girls is prohibited’, there is no existing law specifically against FGM in Somalia that criminalises or punishes it. In 2015, a bill to end FGM within the entire country was initiated but it was not finalised. In Puntland, as of 2018, FGM specific legislation was awaiting approval by the parliament and a fatwa against FGM/C had been signed. However, there were no cases against FGM identified nor were there any cases of malpractice brought against medical professionals for performing FGM. In Somaliland, even though a fatwa (religious edict) was published aiming at punishing those who perform FGM, there is currently no legislation that expressly criminalises and punishes the practice of FGM. In cases where girls have bled to death after they underwent FGM/C, the issue seems to have been dealt with privately, between the family and the circumciser. Protection or support measures by NGOs or clan authorities for people that fear FGM/C have not been identified.
FGM/C amounts to persecution.
In the case of girls who have not been subjected to FGM, well-founded fear of persecution would in general be substantiated.
In the case of women who have not been subjected to FGM, not all such individuals would face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to be subjected to FGM/C should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, particularly the age of the applicant, her marital status, and the views of her family on the practice. The circumstances under which the applicant had managed to avoid being subjected to FGM should also be given due consideration.
In the case of women and girls who have been subjected to FGM, not all such individuals would face the level of risk required to establish well-founded fear of persecution. The individual assessment of whether there is a reasonable degree of likelihood for the applicant to be subjected to FGM/C again should take into account risk-impacting circumstances, such as: age, family status, type of FGM/C experienced, family perceptions and traditions towards the practice, etc.
Nexus to a reason for persecution
Available information indicates that persecution of this profile may be for reasons of membership of a particular social group. For example, women and girls who have not been subjected to FGM/C, may be subjected to persecution for reasons of this innate characteristic and/or common background which cannot be changed (not being subjected to FGM/C) and their distinct identity in Somalia. Persecution of this profile may also be for reasons of religion.