FGM and legal reform

Somalia’s Ministry of Women’s Affairs announced it will introduce legislation to ban FGM/C. In my twitter feed, this news was met with exclamations of how it’s a win for women and such progress. But a little more reading shows that the 2012 Somali constitution already considers FGM/C torture and prohibits the practice.

And yet, the WHO estimated in 2006 that 97.9% of women and girls aged 15-49 in Somalia had been cut.

97.9%

Outlawing the process through the Constitution likely has not resulted in much change to that figure. So, what’s the purpose of making another law that people won’t follow? Well, perhaps the government could direct services to women and girls who didn’t want to be cut, or pay for programming to encourage local leaders and parents to publicly denounce cutting, as has been tried in parts of West Africa, or maybe just getting it in the news again will be useful.

I’m not optimistic, though. Unless real efforts are made to identify and address the normative and cultural aspects of the practice, it’s hard to imagine outlawing it actually being effective.

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