Important Religious Ruling against all forms of female circumcision signed in Puntland, North Eastern Somalia
Garowe, Puntland 13 November 2013 - An important step forward towards eliminating all forms of female circumcision in Puntland, North East Somalia was taken when 18 prominent religious leaders officially signed a Fatwa or religious ruling against all forms of the practice, also known as Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM) – at an official ceremony at the Puntland Ministry of Health.
The proceedings were witnessed by the Puntland Minister of Justice, Religious Affairs and Rehabilitation, the Deputy Minister of Health and Deputy Minister of Women and Family Social Affairs. All three Ministries as well as UNICEF, UNFPA, Puntland’s traditional leaders and civil society have been key in working against FGM/C which is almost universally practiced in Puntland
Despite the clear health risks of female circumcision, communities in Somalia often continue FGM/C in the belief that it is a religious requirement. To counter this UNICEF approaches FGM/C in Somalia from religious, medical, community and cultural perspectives – continually emphasizing that girls and women are being subjected to health risks which have life-threatening consequences based on false beliefs that have nothing to do with religious or medical teachings. One of the most influential groups in Puntland are the Somali Sheikhs and Imans. UNICEF has been engaging with them for five years and this has led to public declarations on FGM/C abandonment by more than 300 religious leaders in Puntland in 2011 and 2012.
During the launch the Puntland Justice Minister, Abdikalif Sh Hassan (Ajayo) said: “If the religious leaders guarantee that this harmful practice does not have any root in Islam and produce an unambiguous Fatwa that bans all forms of FGM/C practices, I am fully confident that practitioners will drop the knife and the people of Puntland people will be free from FGM/C.”
An Islamic Scholar, Sheikh Abdulrazak Haji Adan gave a detailed presentation from the Islamic perspectives on FGM/C pointing out that there was no basis in Islam for FGM/C and instead they quoted verses that they said supported FGM/C abandonment.
A committee of seven members drafted the Fatwa which justified total abandonment on the fact that it is harmful to the health and wellbeing of girls and women and is contrary to Islamic teaching.