FGM and al-Shabaab are Somalia’s biggest problems – a recent EU report says. The European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) has unveiled updated Country Guidance on Somalia, delving deeper into the intricate web of armed conflicts, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), and female recruitment into the al-Shabaab terrorist group.
Luxembourg, LUXEMBOURG. By Yahya:
While Somalia’s 2012 Provisional Constitution (Article 15) condemns FGM as a cruel practice, no specific law against this terrifying act exists. Puntland introduced a Zero Tolerance Bill in 2021, yet, it remains pending. Somaliland issued a religious fatwa against FGM in 2018. However, the EU report states that none of these efforts has deterred the widespread practice of FGM throughout Somalia.
Shockingly, nearly all Somali women have undergone some form of FGM, with a staggering 99% prevalence rate among women aged 15-49. The prevalent Pharaonic type of FGM, also called Type III, is particularly prevalent, affecting 64% of surveyed women. Despite legal and religious measures, societal norms and the pursuit of social acceptance perpetuate this harmful practice.
According to the EU, Somali women and girls fearing FGM lack significant protection or support measures. The high prevalence of FGM leaves women and girls vulnerable to physical and psychological harm, necessitating robust safeguards and intervention strategies.
Al-Shabaab and female recruitment
The updated guidance report illuminates another issue that troubles Somalia: al-Shabaab’s recruitment of women. The EU says that the militant group has coerced girls as young as 14 into marrying fighters under threats of violence against their families. Wife inheritance remains prevalent, with widows of al-Shabaab members compelled into marriages with other fighters. This practice mainly concerns Bantu/Jareer women; the EU report describes it as sexual and domestic slavery. The recruitment also signifies a grim alternative to the threat of gender-based violence and insecurity.
Women within al-Shabaab serve various roles, including zakat (an Islamic tax) collectors, madrasa (Islamic schools) teachers, preachers, and prison security guards. Their association can range from being actively involved “members” to being linked through marriage as “wives”. Most women, especially girls, are subjected to forced marriages and sexual violence within the group. While some express support for the group’s goals, others are coerced into involvement.
Call for protection
The recently updated EUAA’s guidance on Somalia unearths the deeply entrenched issues of armed conflict, FGM, and female recruitment into al-Shabaab. The assessment underscores the urgent need for protection measures and intervention strategies for individuals facing these circumstances.