The authorities in Somalia have said they will prosecute those responsible for the death of a 10-year-old girl who bled to death recently after being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM).
The prosecution, if taken, would be the first of its kind in Somalia where over 90 per cent of girls and woman are subjected to the practice.
The move comes amid efforts this week, involving a number of Irish campaigners in Somalia, to build local alliances against FGM.
A week-long campaign was launched on Sunday in Mogadishu by the Somali-born Irishwoman, Ifrah Ahmed, whose Ifrah Foundation is working with the London-based Global Media Campaign Against FGM, run by the former journalist Maggie O'Kane, and supported by Irish and other EU diplomats in eastern Africa.
The campaign is seeking to enlist the support of local religious leaders for a so-called zero tolerance approach to FGM, and also using local media and medics to convince parents to cease subjecting their daughters to the practice. FGM has no medical benefit and predates both Islam and Christianity, but is linked to efforts to control female sexuality and reproduction.
The death of Deeqa Dahir Nuur days before the launch of the campaign received media attention in Somalia and internationally.
The girl had FGM performed on her on Sunday 15th July and died two days later from blood loss and further complications caused by tetanus.
The cut is understood to have severed artery - not a vein as earlier reported - leading to severe blood loss and tetanus. Deequ Dahir Nuur was cut in a “ceremony” with her three sisters, two were older and one younger.
According to sources in Somalia, all four were all subjected to the most extreme form of FGM which is the complete removal of the clitoris and labia using a knife or razor blade.
Deeqa Dahir Nuur came from Olol village, some 50 kilometres from the capital, Mogadishu.
In response to the death, both the deputy prime minister and the attorney general of Somalia confirmed, at the end of the Global Media Campaign/Ifrah Foundation Media Academy in Mogadishu, plans for Somalia’s first prosecution over FGM.
"It is not acceptable that in the 21st century FGM is continuing in Somalia, it should not be part of our culture. It is definitely not part of the Islamic religion," said deputy prime minister, Mahdi Mohamed Guuled.
“The prosecution of those involved in the Deeqa’s care will send a strong message to the country.”
It is understood that the cutter has not been arrested and the victim’s parents are, according to the Somali reporter who interviewed them, distraught.
“Especially the mother, she was going completely crazy she had her three other daughters cut at the same time, by the same cutter. The sad thing is that the parents think FGM is normal and didn’t even recognise the dangers,” said Nafisa Ogle, the Global Media Campaign media graduate who broke the story.
“The sad thing for me is that millions of dollars has been spent on FGM in Somalia and these people are still completely ignorant about how dangerous it is ,” she said.
She was tipped off about the death, when Deeqa’s uncle called to the journalist’s house looking for a container to wash the body and prepare Deeqa for burial.
“I said to him, what do you need the container for, and he said it is to wash the body, that the girl has died from the cut. By then, they had brought Deeqa to the hospital and I went to check if it was true and I put the news out on twitter. Then all the journalists came to report what had happened to her.” said Nafisa Ogle.
Hundreds of people attended the funeral after the media reported the death. FGM deaths usually pass unnoticed in Somalia.
The attorney general, Ahmed Ali Dahir, announcing the prosecution told the Global Media Campaign gathering in Mogadishu: "When the local authorities near Deeqa's village were initially contacted they said: 'this kind of thing happens, there is nothing to be done about it.'"
Mr Ali Dahir announced that a team of investigators would be sent from his office in Mogadishu to investigate the circumstances of Deeqa’s death, and that the prosecution would take place under Somalia’s Penal Code which, he said, protected the right to life of all Somali citizens.
“We don’t yet have a law in this country banning FGM but we have plenty of provision under the country’s existing penal code, to take this prosecution . . . The religious leaders have to do more; they have to go on TV and radio and call for an end to this. They have been silent for too long.”