A 10-year-old Somali girl has bled to death following female genital mutilation (FGM). The Guardian reports that Deeqa Dahir Nuur’s mother took her to a traditional circumciser on July 14. A vein was severed in the course of the procedure. The family tried unsuccessfully to stop the bleeding on their own for two days before taking the girl to a hospital where she eventually bled to death. It’s the first confirmed death from FGM in years. Somalia has the highest rate of FGM in the world with 98 percent of females undergoing the procedure, most of them between the ages of five and nine. Complications are generally denied within the country.
The possibility of consequences for the woman who performed Nuur’s procedure is slim. Although it has been constitutionally declared illegal, laws for its enforcement do not exist in the country with a large population of conservative and legal groups who believe in and support the practice. Activist Hawa Aden Mohamed of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development commented on the dire situation for girls in Somalia.
“The woman who performed the operation has not been arrested, but even if she was, there is no law that would ensure she is punished for the act. It is difficult to estimate the number of girls who die due to FGM per month or per day because they are [sworn] to secrecy, particularly in rural areas. We only get to hear of the few cases of those bold enough to seek medical treatment in towns. But from the stories we do hear, they could be in their dozens.”
Mohamed says the practice is “entrenched in traditional myths, which can only be effectively challenged through knowledge.” Activists hope that this tragedy will receive publicity that will serve to bring to light the dangers of forced genital mutilation.
The most severe form of the procedure is infibulation. It’s believed that about two-thirds (or 130 million per year) of females who undergo FGM have this procedure. It is often performed by people who are not adequately trained and use tools including sticks, broken glass, knives, and razors. The process involves cutting and repositioning the labia so that a seal is formed that leaves a hole so small that only menstrual blood or urine can pass through.
Brendan Wynne of Donor Direct Action, an organization that provides funds to frontline FGM activists, stressed the importance of this girl’s death being a confirmed case of death from complications of FGM.
“It is really important that this is a confirmed case, as pro-FGM lobbyists sometimes put forward the nonsensical view that it is not harmful. This is completely untrue. It often has lifelong medical and psychological consequences – and, as we have seen, [can lead to] death. We have no more time for any debate on the harms of FGM and this case, like many others, proves that.”